RIO DE JANEIRO – The Olympic 4x100m relay final included the five fastest men of all time. One of them will leave Rio with the continued distinction of being the world’s fastest man without an Olympic medal.
That man is Tyson Gay, whose three Olympics have proven nightmarish for different reasons, including the use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2012.
Gay, 34, helped the U.S. to cross the finish line third in the 4x100m on Friday night. It appeared that Gay had earned his first Olympic medal. But somewhere near the end of the U.S. lap of honor, the Americans found out they were disqualified.
Gay was a part of a medal-less 4x100m team for a third straight Games, but for the first time it was not his fault. Rather, it was because leadoff man Mike Rodgers handed off too soon to second-leg Justin Gatlin.
Gay’s first reaction?
“I’m hurting right now,” he said. “Words can’t describe the pain.”
Will he keep sprinting?
“I’ve got to go to 2020, man,” he said. “I didn’t plan on running until I’m 38, but, hell, it seems like I’ve got to to get another medal.”
Gay was the world’s dominant sprinter in 2007, when he swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles at the world championships in Osaka, Japan. He is the last man to beat Usain Bolt to a finish line in a global championship final.
In 2008, Gay ran the second-fastest time in the world for the year when he won the Olympic Trials 100m in 9.77 seconds, trailing only Bolt’s then-world record 9.72.
Then Gay suffered a hamstring injury in the 2008 Olympic Trials 200m and was unable to return to top form for the Beijing Games.
In the 2008 Olympic 4x100m heats, Gay and Doc Patton botched a handoff and the U.S. team, whose bibs appeared to have USA written in black Sharpie, did not finish.
Gay came back from that to take silver to Bolt in the 100m at the 2009 World Championships, and even beat Bolt in a race in Stockholm in 2010, but by 2012 he was no longer Bolt’s primary rival.
Yohan Blake had emerged, Justin Gatlin had re-emerged from a doping ban and Gay, who missed nearly one year with a hip injury, took fourth in the London 100m.
Gay was part of a U.S. 4x100m team in London that finished second, but that medal was stripped after it was found in 2013 that Gay had taken performance-enhancing drugs.
Gay returned from a doping ban in 2014 and hung on for one more Olympic cycle, getting on the U.S. team for Rio by finishing fifth in the Olympic Trials 100m.
He wouldn’t run an individual race here, but he did make the relay pool.
Gay ran in the Thursday’s 4x100m heats and then was on Friday’s final quartet. Marvin Bracy, who finished third in the Trials 100m and was eliminated in the 100m semifinals here, was left off.
A possible shot at the 2020 Olympics seems very unlikely given Gay’s decline, injury history and age. No sprinter older than 35 has made a U.S. Olympic team.