By MIKE HURST
BREAKING world records is hard enough anyway without your coach being locked up behind bars unable to supervise your training.
But that is the reality for Americans Tyson Gay and Wallace Spearmon, two prime contenders for record honours this year.
Gay, 24, is the fastest 100-200 combination sprinter in history.
Spearmon, 22, is the third fastest 200m runner all-time.
Their coach Lance Brauman was sentenced to serve a year and a day in a US federal prison in Texas after he was judged guilty on five counts of paying athletes for work they did not do when he was their athletics coach in Kansas.
Before he went into jail, Brauman had the foresight to prepare a notebook for each of his current athletes in Arkansas detailing the training they must do in his absence.
``You train diligently in the absence of a coach,’’ Gay said.
Got mine [the notebook] in my backback,'' Spearmon said. We have to grow up and make ouselves do them. It’s kind of hard to go out there with no one yelling at you.’’
World records for all three men’s sprints, as well as the high hurdles, seem likely to fall this year.
When Michael Johnson ran his 200m time of 19.32sec to win gold at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, his stunning time looked unapproachable _ a performance for the age, perhaps on par with Bob Beamon’s 8.90m long jump set at the 1968 Mexico Games.
But suddenly even Johnson’s peerless performance is under threat.
Of the six men in history to date who have run faster than 19.70sec for 200m, four are currently active and posted their results within the last 12 months.
Americans Xavier ``X-Man’’ Carter (19.63), (Wallace) Spearmon (19.65), (Tyson) Gay (19.68) and Walter Dix (19.69) are all rapidly catching Johnson.
It is even hotter in the 100, in which at least one of the world record-holders _ Asafa Powell _ is still active. His co-holder, reigning Olympic and world 100m titles-holder Justin Gatlin, will lose his share of the record if he loses an arbitration case in which he is contesting an alleged failed (edit) test.
Jamaican Powell (for the third time) and Gatlin both clocked 9.77sec last year with Gay next best last season with 9.84 just ahead of African revelation Olusoji Fasuba (9.85).
Of the 15 men who have ever run under 9.90sec, seven remain currently active, which means it’s getting mighty crowded at the top.
Especially now that Derrick Atkins _ Powell’s cousin from the neighbouring Bahamas _ has entered the fray this year.
On May 29 in Belgrade, Atkins (9.98) served notice of his arrival pushing Powell to the 2007 world leading wind-legal time of 9.97.
Then last weekend in New York Atkins ran a barely wind-assisted 100m time of 9.83 chasing Gay to the line in 9.76 _ a world record but for the 2.2m/sec tailwind, about the equivalent of a sneeze in force above the limit of 2.0m/s allowable for athletics records.
The 2004 Athens Olympic 100m silver medallist Shawn Crawford clocked 9.96 in New York and finished two metres behind Gay.
Gay is now the best ever sprint double performer with his times of 9.84 and 19.68 last year.
Dismissing the enormously wind-aided times at helpful high altitude of 9.69 by Obadele Thompson and 9.76 by Churandy Martina, Gay’s 9.76 in New York is the quickest ever under any conditions near to or at sea level.
I may have the fastest time with a tailwind and Asafa [Powell] has the fastest legal time,'' Gay said, but I don’t think you can call this a rivalry until I run a world record, or I win a race against him. Until then, he’s the world record-holder and he deserves that respect.
In his three world record runs of 9.77s Powell had tailwinds of 1.6m, 1.5m and 1.0m, although intrinsically the best 100m marks are still Maurice Greene’s 9.79 with an 0.1m wind, 9.80 (0.2m) and 9.82 (-0.2m).
``Powell is younger than I am. Xavier is maybe 21 years old. Wallace [Spearmon] is 22. I feel old at 24,’’ Gay said.
``If I can double at the world championships [starting August 25 in Osaka, Japan] then I think I will try to double at the Olympics.’’
Johnson, the 200m and 400m record-holder, ran his last lap of honour at the Goodwill Games in Brisbane in 2001.
However Johnson, history’s greatest 200m and 400m championship competitor, is managing and mentoring fellow Baylor University sprinter Jeremy Wariner, the reigning Olympic and world 400m champion.
Wariner looks set to break Johnson’s 400m record (43.18) after clocking 44.02 in Osaka, Japan last month.
Wariner is the first white male Olympic champion in an individual sprint event since Allan Wells (100m) and Pietro Mennea (200m) won at the 1980 Moscow Games, diminished to some extent by the US-led boycott.
The 110m hurdles record of 12.88 set only last year by China’s defending Olympic champion Xiang Liu is also under seige from Americans Dominique Arnold (12.90 last year) and Terrence Trammell (12.95) who pressed Xiang (12.92) in New York last weekend.