Gay bt Bolt No.1 performance

Does it get bigger than Gay vs. Bolt? Not in 2010

Tyson Gay beating Usain Bolt in the 100m in Stockholm sent shock waves throughout the Olympic sports world this summer and was our choice for the Top Performance of 2010.

We explain the significance of the feat and what its lasting impact might be.

By Joe Battaglia, Universal Sports | Posted: Dec 23, 9:23a ET | Updated: Dec 23, 9:58a ET

When the IAAF launched the Diamond League, its 14 mega-meet series, it did so hoping to revive a sport on life-support by delivering the marquee head-to-head match-ups that are the lifeblood of the World Championships and Olympics.

With events such as the sprints naturally lending themselves to the showdown concept, and having one of the world’s most prominent athletes as the marketing linchpin, it seemed like a can’t-lose proposition.

But nothing great ever comes that easy.

First, Usain Bolt had to withdraw from a number of the early meets becuase of a nagging Achilles injury.

Meanwhile, American Tyson Gay, Bolt’s primary foil, got off to a slow start because of lingering hamstring tightness.

Fortunately, the two über-sprinters regained enough health to deliver the match-up everyone wanted on August 6 in Stockholm.

For only the third time ever, Bolt and Gay lined up against each other for a 100m race. After two false starts (and some playful showboating by Bolt), Gay got out of the blocks slightly quicker than Bolt, something he absolutely had to do, even to have a chance.

Gay pulled further in front through the sprinter’s drive phase and midway through the race began to sprint away from Bolt on his way to a convincing victory. Gay stopped the clock in 9.84 seconds while Bolt crossed in a pedestrian-for-his-ridiculous-standards 9.97.

“The start was OK but I must admit I was surprised not seeing Usain in front after half the race,” Gay said. “It was very important to beat someone like that for the fans and the sport. My body worked well today.”

But Gay also knew that Bolt’s body did him in - he would scrap his season just days later due to a back injury - which is why he tempered his enthusiasm.

“Honestly, deep down inside I know he wasn’t 100 percent,” Gay told the BBC. “I’m still looking for the day where we both step on the line 100 percent.”

To his credit, Bolt didn’t hide behind his aches and pains after having his 27-race winning streak snapped and his aura of invincibility shattered. “I got beat today by an athlete who was in better form and shape than I was,” he said. “It was one of those days. I got a great start but there was no power, and I came in second. There is no excuse.”

What was really interesting was measuring reaction to the outcome.

That Bolt was the top trending topic on Twitter in the hours afterward speaks to the magnitude of what transpired.

But was it really that shocking that Bolt actually lost a race?

The otherworldly performances may have pointed to Bolt as being some sort of winning machine, but he really is human.

And let’s face it, Bolt wasn’t exactly running against some shish kebab guy from Turkey. Gay is the American record holder and second-fastest man in history.

“It was crazy,” Gay told Reuters recently. “It was like I didn’t even exist until I beat the world-record holder.”

When have you ever seen a teammate have to come to the defense of another teammate after a major victory?

U.S. Olympian Darvis “Doc” Patton felt compelled to Tweet this that night: “For the record, Tyson beating Bolt is not an upset. He did run 9.69 with a double sport hernia.”

So what will be the lasting impact of this performance?

We’ll likely have to wait until next August, and the World Championships in Daegu to find out.

Which should make for another interesting summer.