Love him, hate him, believe him or not, Tyson Gay’s persistence might finally bring him a coveted Olympic medal.
Gay, a graduate of Lafayette High School in Lexington, ran the third leg of the United States’ 4-by-100-meter relay at the Summer Games in Brazil on Thursday.
The U.S. men ran the fastest time — 37.65 seconds — in Thursday’s qualifying and are among the contenders to win the gold Friday night. The 4-by-100 finals will be televised on NBC-18 at 9:35 p.m.
“I’ve been here in Rio for a while now,” Gay told McClatchy correspondent Chris Kudialis after the race. “Not running the 100 makes the Olympics a lot longer, but I felt good today.”
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Gay, who turned 34 last week, was part of the men’s 4-by-100 relay team that won silver at the 2012 Games in London. The entire team was stripped of its medals after Gay tested positive for an anabolic steroid.
“I felt sorry, but I told some of the young guys I got this, we got this,” Gay added Thursday. “You got to stay positive.”
Usain Bolt, the 100-meter Olympic gold medalist from Jamaica, did not run in Thursday’s heats. Jamaica posted the sixth-fastest time in qualifying but Bolt is an obvious game-changer in the finals. Bolt and Jamaica won the gold in the relay in 2012.
For the U.S., 100-meter silver medalist Justin Gatlin sat out Thursday’s qualifying.
Four-man teams for Friday’s finals have not yet been named, but if the team wins a medal everyone gets one regardless whether they participate in the finals.
Gay gained entry to these Olympics after the Olympic Trials, in which he failed to qualify in either the 100 (fifth place) or 200 meters (sixth place). He was added later as a relay runner.
As a younger sprinter, Gay won world championships at 100 and 200 meters but has struggled with injuries in recent years, then had to sit out a one-year doping suspension, a violation for which he accepted responsibility. He was later reinstated.
“I don’t have a sabotage story. I don’t have any lies,” Gay said at the time. “I don’t have anything to say to make this seem like it was a mistake.”
Bolt, the only man to run the 100 meters (9.58) faster than the 9.69 Gay posted in 2009, said last year that Gay should have been kicked out of the sport.
Friday night, the rivals could again be on the same track together.