EUGENE, Ore. — Nearly a year ago, Tyson Gay was undergoing surgery on his right hip, wondering if there was any way he would be ready for the London Olympics.
Three months ago, the sprinter could train only on grass because the pounding from the track aggravated his hip. Two weeks ago, he ran his first competitive race and felt a twinge of soreness the next day.
In the days leading to the Olympic trials, he climbed out of bed with only a little tightness.
To him, that’s as good as it’s going to get.
Now he heads into the 100 meters this weekend at the trials with this thought: He’s healthy enough to make it back to the Olympics.
“I’m feeling fast,” said Gay, who easily won his first-round heat on a cool and damp Saturday. “And physically, I’m OK. Everybody is feeling something. I think I’m just living with that right now.”
Four or five years ago, before Usain Bolt burst onto the scene, Gay was touted as the favorite for the Beijing Olympics, the man to beat in track and field. These days, he is the sport’s biggest question mark.
Gay said his performance at a “B” meet this month in New York gave him all the confidence he needed. In that race, Gay finished in 10.00 seconds while running into a headwind. It was basically the equivalent of the time that Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, one of the favorites heading into London, ran later that day in the marquee event.
“Everything went well,” Gay said.
Just as he expected.
Gay has been stepping up his training in practice, too. And while his hip hasn’t exactly felt miraculously better, he’s at least now to the point where he thinks he can handle the grind of a long meet.
“I’m still waiting for the moment when I wake up and don’t feel anything,” said Gay, who turns 30 in August. “A lot of people know I’m a fighter. It would be great if I make it. I’ve been through so much.”
His plan at trials is simple: Get through the first round Saturday expending as little energy as possible and then head straight to the trainer’s table. He’s going to rely on a team of trainers and a few ice baths to make sure he’s able to answer the bell for the semifinals Sunday and then — if everything goes according to the script — the final, which are 2 hours, 18 minutes after the semis.
“Then I’ll let it all hang out in the final,” Gay said.
Gay realizes there are lots of people counting him out. This is a deep field and includes Olympic bronze medal winner Walter Dix, ‘04 Olympic gold medalist Justin Gatlin, ‘09 national champion Mike Rodgers and savvy veteran Doc Patton.