NEW YORK CITY - Tyson Gay announced to the world that he is back, running the third-fastest 200 meters of all time and annihilating a world-class field Saturday at the 2009 Reebok Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium.
If his performance did nothing else, it reminded observers that there is more than one name in the world of men's sprinting. And that in 2007, the top name in men's sprinting was Tyson Gay.
In his first race on American soil since his devastating injury in the 2008 Olympic Trials 200m, the 2007 World Outdoor 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay gold medalist was ready. When the gun went off, so did he. With a first 100 meters that rivaled world-record pace, Gay dominated the Western Union men's 200, blazing to the finish line in 19.58 seconds. Second place finisher Wallace Spearmon, Gay's former training partner, was four tenths of a second back in 19.98. Xavier Carter was third in 20.27.
The performance in his first 200m of the season surprised even Gay, whose 2009 training has thus far included only strength work, rather than purely sprinting work.
"It made me very, very happy," said Gay, who injured his hamstring at the Olympic Trials and wasn't fully fit at the Olympic Games. "19.5 had been one of the goals I had, but to do that in the first race is very pleasing. I wanted to work on my reaction and my start. Then I just ran. I ran for my life. When I came toward the finish line, I got kind of tight, and I wanted to bring it on in. I tried to push all the way through, just to see where my body is at."
Gay now holds the third and fourth fastest times ever over 200m: Saturday's race and the 19.62 he ran to win the 2007 USA Outdoor Championships. Only USA Track & Field Hall of Famer Michael Johnson (19.32) and triple 2008 Olympic champion Usain Bolt (19.30) have run faster.
In fact, Bolt's world-record performances in Beijing have provided motivation for Gay. "He's probably excited," Gay said when asked what he thought Bolt's reaction to his race might be. "He ran 14.3 for 150 so he is very fit. His 200 (at Beijing) was a shocker, and the way he won the 100 was shocking, but I wasn't shocked that he ran that fast."
The race also proved a return of confidence for the unusually humble and introspective sprinter. "It was difficult," Gay said of returning from Beijing not having met his goals. "The biggest part was getting over eth 4x100 relay. The other part was getting hurt when I was in the best shape of my life. I felt like a let my city down, my family down and my state down." As for Saturday's performance, "This race tells me I'm pretty fit."
For his efforts, Gay was named Team USA Athlete of the Meet, presented by Visa. His performance was one of seven world leaders on the day at the fourth stop of the Outdoor Visa Championship Series
Anything you can do I can do better
The former American record holder in the 3,000m steeplechase, Anna Willard won the women's 800m in a world-leading 1:59.29. Running a conservative race for the first 700m, Willard kicked into high gear over the last 100 to overtake three-time Olympian Hazel Clark and 2008 Olympic finalist Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica.
After making the Olympic Games final in the steeplechase and finishing ninth, Willard decided she needed a change and made the move to the Mammoth Track Club and Coach Terrence Mahon. Since the switch, Willard won the USA Indoor 1,500m title 4:17.37 and the BAA road mile in 4:38.6.
Double Olympic silver medalist and two-time World Outdoor champion over 200m, Allyson Felix ran down Olympic silver medalist Shericka Williams (JAM) in the Nutrilite women's 400m to win in a world-leading 50.50 to Williams' 50.58. 2007 World Outdoor bronze medalist Novlene Williams-Mills took third in 51.11.
Beijing silver medalist Jenn Stuczynski continued her domination of the women's pole vault on American soil, winning the event with a world-leading 4.81 meters/15 feet 9.25 inches. 2000 Olympic gold medalist Stacy Dragila was second with a clearance of 4.52m/14-10.
Two-time World Outdoor 100m medalist Lauryn Williams posted a world leader in winning the women's 200m, crossing the line in 22.34. 2006 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor champion Shalonda Solomon was the runner-up in 22.43.
The men's 5,000m saw an American all-comers record set as 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist Micah Kogo won the race in 13.02.90. 2007 double World Outdoor champion Bernard Lagat was the runner-up in 13:03.06. One of the biggest upsets of the day came in the NYRR women's 5,000m, when Kenya's Linet Masai handily dispatched world record-holder Tirunesh Dibaba, 14:35.39 to 14:40.93, to run another world leader
Other winning athletes included 2008 USA Indoor champion Mike Rodgers winning the Visa men's 100m in a windy 9.94 (+3.1mps) and 2008 Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt winning the Nutrilite men's 400m in 44.75. 2008 Olympic bronze medalists Tasha Danvers and Bershawn Jackson won their respective races as Danvers won the Irie Jam women's 400m hurdles in 55.19 and Jackson won the Reebok men's 400m hurdles in 48.52.
2008 Olympian Christin Wurth-Thomas won the Reebok women's 1,500m in a meet record, personal best 4:03.96. On the men's side, 2008 Olympian and NCAA champion Leo Manzano won the race in 3:34.14. Two-time Olympic silver medalist and Indoor Visa Champion Terrence Trammell continued on his winning ways, winning the men's 110m hurdles in 13.12, and Carmelita Jeter won the women's 100 in a wind-aided 10.85 (+2.8).
For more information and complete results, visit www.VisaChampionshipSeries.com or USATF.org.
2009 Reebok Grand Prix athlete quotes
Adam Montague, men's javelin winner
It was my first competition since surgery (elbow). I started with 70 meters and it felt good. I didn't know what to expect. My elbow held up, everything held up and things worked out.
Stephanie Brown Trafton, women's discus winner
I'm very satisfied with today. Usually my first throw is my best. Today, I had an okay first throw, but the rest got better and better. I wanted to come out and do that.
Michelle Carter, women's shot put winner
I felt good, the weather is great. I started out kind of slow. My last two throws were pretty good. My last throw was probably the best, but I fouled.
I've been training through some of my track meets, and I'm getting to my peak phase. I feel pretty good.
Tasha Danvers, women's 400m hurdles winner
When you have the Olympic champion in the race, you're always aware of the potential threat. At the end of the day, I had to stay focused in your lane so that's what I did.
It was a good performance for me. It's been a trying year for me already. We know that Melaine (Walker) can run 52 in her sleep.
It's a fabulous sunny day here in New York with a fabulous crowd.
Bershawn Jackson, men's 400m hurdles winner
My coach had a strategy and all I did was stick to the game plan. It feels great to come here and be victorious in New York.
I'm upset that I got a bronze medal in Beijing. It's time to redeem myself and show that I'm the best hurdler in the world.
Lashawn Merritt, men's 400m winner
The wind really played a part on the backstretch. By the homestretch, I was tired. I wanted to get the win and that's what I did. I felt good before the race. The wind was really strong in the backstretch.
I feel stronger, training is going well. I plan on going to Berlin and doing something great.
Christin Wurth Thomas, women's 1,500m winner
I felt good. My workouts are going phenomenal. To come out and lead from the gun is phenomenal.
Today was getting one under my belt, getting the cobwebs out. The goal is to keep improving.
Leo Manzano, Men's 1500m winner
It was a great race. All the guys ran tough. I'm excited I got this race out of my system. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I wanted to race, run and have fun.
I think I'm in really good shape. My coaches have definitely prepared me well.
Carmelita Jeter, women's 100m winner
I have a new coach (John Smith). My training is a lot more difficult, my mindset is much better, my technique is better.
With track, you can't count anyone out, anyone can beat anyone on any day.
Allyson Felix, women's 400m winner
I'm still in heavy training right now. I'm working to get better each week. I'm more focused on the 200.
Mike Rodgers, men's 100m winner
It feels good. I have to stay humble and keep working hard. The Trials are in a couple of weeks.
I had a lot to shoot for this year. Last year I raced about 45 races. This year I've raced a lot less and gotten stronger.
Carolina Kluft, women's long jump winner
I didn't have a good feeling before. I've been injured all winter. I kept running down the runway and kept saying, "its okay, its okay."
I feel good. I will not be in my best shape until the end of July or August.
The long jump is a new challenge. I definitely like it and I'm going to stay with it.
Terrence Trammell, men's 110m hurdles winner
Today was better. I wanted to make sure I attacked the first part of my race. I should have stayed more aggressive. I feel good how things turned out.
On the last two hurdles I didn't get my lead leg down like I wanted. It's still a month until USA Nationals. By then, everything will be okay.
Khadevis Robinson, men's 800m winner
Usually, I feel really good coming in. I had that extra confidence and get really amped up. Today I didn't feel so good getting ready to run. I wanted to run a more strategic race.
I have to really focus on the last 50 meters. I thought I had it, I was looking and not focusing
A win is a win and at my age, its time for me to start enjoying all this.
Anna Williard, women's 800m winner
The plan was to show I had another gear at 700. Even though I was third, with the last 100 I knew I could just kick and win.
Micah Kogo, men's 5,000m winner
I'm happy this is my fast race. I needed to run under my PB. I was hoping to run under 13 minutes but the wind made it very difficult.
Lauryn Williams, women's 200m winner
I always do better after a round. I always say I'm good for rounds so having to run the 100 set me up to run a better 200. I think it was a good race.
About USA Track & Field
USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, some of the most-watched events of Olympic broadcasts, the #1 high school and junior high school participatory sport and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States.
For more information on USATF, visit USATF.org.