Tyson Gay has been the U.S.A.’s best hope to win gold in the sprinting events for years, and now he feels he’s finally healthy enough to break through.
BIRMINGHAM, England — Tyson Gay took his time loosening up his surgically repaired hip at the end of the track, rotating his body this way and that as he listened to music through headphones.
He did lunges, toe touches, some twists at the waist and deep-knee bends. Finally, he skipped along in his lane before practice Wednesday at Alexander Stadium.
Only after all of that did he even consider a light jog, let alone sprinting.
These days, it takes quite a bit of work to prepare his healing right hip. He’s overly cautious, too, especially with the 100 meters in London just around the corner.
Once warmed up, Gay went through a rather light workout as he blazed 30 meters down the track before backing off the accelerator. He did this a few times before calling it a day.
Still, it was enough to see this: He’s rounding into form and nearly ready to take on Usain Bolt & Co.
“Hip’s good,” Gay said. “I don’t have any excuses. Whatever happens, happens.”
He’s equal parts nervous and eager as he awaits the showdown in the 100, where Bolt and Yohan Blake are the overwhelming favorites. Gay is almost an afterthought because of his balky hip, which required surgery last July.
Dismiss him. Write him off, even. That’s all perfectly fine with him.
Just to be here, running at full speed, is an achievement to Gay.
Four months ago, he was training on grass because the track workouts irritated his hip.
Four weeks ago, he was putting his hip through an arduous test, running the rounds at U.S. trials to finish second and earn a place on the team.
Now, he’s good to go.
Enough to win a medal?
“Absolutely,” coach Jon Drummond said. “But I don’t want to put anything out there to jinx anyone. We have a great field in the 100, probably one of the fastest finals history has ever seen.”
Gay is predicting it will take a time of 9.7 seconds to step on the podium. That’s well off Bolt’s world-record mark of 9.58, but still a very fast time.
After all, Gay’s American record stands at 9.69, which he ran when he was healthy in 2009. To run close to that time on a hip that sidelined for most of last season — well, it may be asking a lot.
“I’ve tried to cram in a lot of workouts and a lot of weights in the least amount of time I could,” Gay said. “This just came up on me real quick. It’s the big show.”
In Wednesday’s workout, Gay took frequent breaks to rest his hip. He would sprint with Trell Kimmons and then sit down. Sprint another and rest some more.
At times, Gay appeared to have a slight limp. Unintentional, he explained, and definitely not from pain.
“Everything is going pretty good,” Gay said. “I feel good.”
Laboring just to keep up with Gay proved something to Kimmons:
“Tyson’s ready — ready to go for the gold,” he said. “At Tyson’s best, he can run with anyone who steps on the track.”
Gay understands the obsession over his hip, but he’s getting sick of talking about it.
Lately, the hip has fallen under scrutiny again, not because it’s hurting — it’s not — but because he’s running so fast.
He recently won meets rather impressively in France and London.
“I have regular soreness, but if I say it bothers me, people don’t believe I’m running good times,” he said. “So I’m saying it’s all good now.”
He’s pampering the hip as much as he can, training in sun-splashed Monaco until his arrival in London on Tuesday.
In Birmingham, at least until recently, there was little sunshine and lots of rain.
Given his late start this season, Gay has no plans to curtail his workouts — unlike other sprinters. He will train heavily right up to his opening heat on Aug. 4.
That’s if his body permits it.
He and Drummond don’t stick to a rigid game plan.
“I base it all on how he feels, how his body feels, where his mind is at,” Drummond said. “Every practice session is something created that day.”
Drummond doesn’t think Gay is that far off from being back in top form. Maybe a few more workouts and he’ll be ready. The coach likes to compare Gay’s progress to baking a cake — “and the cake is done.”
“We’re putting the icing on the cake now, some sprinkles,” Drummond said. “Trying to dress it up nice and pretty for the big party.”
Maybe even crash the party, where Bolt and Blake are the featured attractions. The Jamaican training partners are the two fastest sprinters in the world right now.
“They’re all looking good,” Gay said. “I’m excited to run against them.”
For Gay, the injury has become more of a psychological barrier than anything, especially since he’s only run in a few meets this season.
“What we do is 75 percent mental and 25 percent physical,” Drummond said. “I say that because there’s only so much weight you can lift, only so many track workouts you can do.
“Then, it’s a matter of application: How much you retain and how much you can put back on the track. That’s where he is right now, being confident that he’s got it.”