Gay breaks big-3 barriers

Thursday, 22 April 2010 With sub-45 run, Gay becomes first to break three major sprint barriers

Tyson Gay wins the 100m at the 2009 Super Meet in Kawasaki (AFP / Getty Images)

relnews 2007 triple World champion Tyson Gay reached a unique sprinting milestone on Saturday (17) after breaking through the 45-second barrier in the 400m.

The 27-year old American, who took silver in the 100m at last year’s World Championships, clocked 44.89 at the Tom Jones Memorial Classic in Gainesville, Florida, finishing second to 400m specialist Calvin Smith Jr. (44.81), the son of the former 100m World record holder and two-time World 200m champion. This was only the fourth official outing over the distance for Gay, who had a personal best of 45.57 from last year’s Texas Invitational at Austin. But more significant than even his massive personal best, is that Gay became the first man in history to dip under 10.00 in the 100m, under 20.00 in the 200m, and under 45.00 in the 400!

Gay is the U.S. record holder at 100m with 9.69, the second best time ever. Only Usain Bolt with his World record 9.58 in Berlin last year has run faster. Gay is ranked third all-time in the 200m at 19.58. Only Bolt (19.19 WR in Berlin, 19.30 WR at 2008 Beijing Olympics and 19.57 in Brussels last year) and the legendary Michael Johnson (19.32 WR at 1996 Atlanta Olympics), have run faster.

Based upon the IAAF Outdoor Scoring Tables, Gay now ranks third behind Bolt and Johnson when their personal bests are combined. Bolt is the leader with 3893 points (1374+1356+1163), followed by Johnson with 3817 (1182+1335+1300), and Gay with 3813 (1332+1293+1188). Johnson is the 400m world record holder with 43.18 from 1999 World Championships in Seville, and has a 10.09 career best in the 100m.

Looking back, 1992 Olympic 200m champion Michael Marsh was the first to seriously challenge the ultimate sprinter’s hat-trick. Marsh produced personal bests of 9.93 at 100m, 19.73 at 200m and 45.08 at 400m. With (9.87 and 19.97 bests, Obadele Thompson from Barbados was the next to approach the milestones, but fell shy with a 400m best of just 45.38.

In recent years there have been a handful of sprinters illustrating the talent and skills to approach the barriers, but Gay wasn’t considered as part of that group. More likely candidates were two other Americans - Wallace Spearmon and Xavier Carter, both 200m specialists.

In 2006 Spearmon clocked 19.65 and 45.22 and the following year surprisingly broke the 10-seconds barrier at 100m in Shanghai where he clocked 9.96.

Carter, meanwhile, exploded in just a month’s time in the spring and early summer of 2006 when he clocked 44.53 at 400m and 19.63 at 200m in Lausanne. Injury setbacks followed but he nonetheless came tantalisingly close at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials when he clocked 10.00 in the 100m.

As a teenager Usain Bolt was known as a 400m super prodigy. At just 16, he ran 45.35, but seven seasons later his best has come down to just 45.28 from 2007. He was a sub-20 sprinter at 17 and since 2008 has become the new Sprint King after his record-setting antics at the Beijing Olympics and Berlin World Championships. Now, after his rival Gay’s sub-45, Bolt has one more reason to go back to the one-lap sprint to match the American’s achievement and perhaps go even farther – to run a sub-44 performance!

Ivan Tchechankov for the IAAF

Is it just me or does Tyson Gay seem impervious media or fan interest?

Early season 400m times for athletes like Bolt and Powell generate substantial media coverage, along with plenty of discussion in forums like this, but Gay…even after posting a time that would have been medal worthy in Berlin a year ago…doesn’t even dominate the word count in an article dedicated to his accomplishment.

I find him a very interesting athlete. He raised his game to close down the gap between him and Powell at a time when he was considered just a 200 guy, and after Bolt exploded in 2008 creating a tectonic shift in sprinting, Tyson only seemed to spent about a moment being surprised by it and immediately said “Yep, me too” and got down to the business of trying to close the gap.

I am eager to see where his 200m race might be at this year as he lost both 2008 and 2009 to injury but is showing all the signs of a major breakthrough at that distance as well.

I am also curious to see how he and his team try to make up the gap in his starting and that 40m-60m segment that he seems to lose out on to Bolt. That crazy arm action (totally straight arms for first few strides out of the blocks) can’t help establish rhythm early on.

Or is there just nothing of interest to talk about in a guy who is only the second fastest of all time?

Part of the problem is no one knows what he’s doing and where he is- coaches etc till he starts racing. Agree the arm action over the early few steps is a problem.

I guess that would make it difficult; particularly for the inquisitive minds on this site. No red meat.

From what people hear, is it a deliberately low profile to fit his personality or do they just not like to talk about what they do?