Gay on Life with(out) Lance

Athletics: Bars to success no obstacle for Gay
By Simon Turnbull, Athletics Correspondent
Published: 01 July 2007

Even Norman Stanley Fletcher, with all of his scripted ingenuity from inside the fictional Slade Prison, could not have dreamed of masterminding such an unlikely caper.

From within the barred confines of the Texarkana Federal Correctional Institute on the border of Texas and Arkansas, Lance Brauman has been busy orchestrating the emergence of Tyson Gay as the hottest - not to mention the fastest - property in world track and field in 2007.

Running in the United States Championships in Indianapolis last weekend, Gay won the 100m in 9.84sec, the second fastest time ever run into a headwind, and then scorched to the 200m title in 19.62sec, a time which has only been bettered in that event by Michael Johnson’s world record 19.32sec run at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

That emphatic double blast came in the wake of a near world record 100m run in New York on 2 June - Gay stopped the clock there at 9.76sec, 0.01sec quicker than the world record held jointly by Jamaican Asafa Powell and the suspended drug offender Justin Gatlin of the US, but with a following wind that was a tantalising 0.02 metres per second above the permissible 2m per second limit.

All this while the 24-year-old speed merchant has been guided from behind the Texarkana bars by Brauman.

Gay’s coach was sentenced last November to one year and one day of real-life “porridge” after being found guilty on five counts relating to the fraudulent payment of athletes from student assistance programme funds.

He is due for early release on 27 September but may spend the last 30 days in home confinement.

Either way, he will still be grounded when Gay goes for double gold at the World Championships in Osaka from 25 August to 2 September.

“An extraordinary situation,” Gay mused on Friday, speaking from his training base at Fayette-ville in Arkansas. "Lance still plans the training programmes for myself and the rest of our group. I just got the schedules in the mail this week for when we go over to compete in Europe.
“It has been a little difficult. He can’t see what I’m doing in practice. He can’t see how I feel. But he has been able to watch me race on television while he’s been locked up. I visit him two or three times a week. He calls. He writes. It’s been the same for everybody in the group.”
It has helped that Gay and his training partners - Wallace Spearmon, the 2005 World Championship 200m silver medallist, and Veronica Campbell, the reigning Olympic 200m champion from Jamaica - have had Jon Drummond on hand to oversee their track work at the University of Arkansas. Drummond, a member of the US 4 x 100m relay quartet who struck gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, was one of the fastest men out of the blocks and has helped to bring a snap to Gay’s starting.

At 24, Gay is already the fastest-ever combination sprinter at 100m and 200m, quicker even than Frank Fredericks, Maurice Greene and Carl Lewis. He is also becoming accustomed to the whispers and suspicion that go with life in the historically tainted fast lane.

(edit - the usual denials etc)

The next competitive focal points for Gay are the 200m at the Athletisma meeting in Lausanne on 10 July and the 100m at the Norwich Union British Grand Prix in Sheffield five days later, where - subject to wind and water - he has promised to attack the world record. “I think I can do it,” he said, “if the conditions are right.”

Only two years ago Gay was something of a makeweight. He and Spearmon checked out of the Athletes’ Village at the World Championships in Helsinki after reports that they had been bullied and intimidated by senior US sprinters. Up until then, Tyson had been, evidently, the only Gay in the Village.

Ticket information for the Norwich Union British Grand Prix