In any other year, what Tyson Gay accomplished in 2009 would have been hailed around the athletics world.
Thanks to a flashy Jamaican named Usain Bolt, Gay's amazing track season has been met mostly with indifference.
Bolt, the triple gold medalist of the 2008 Olympic Games at Beijing, served up an encore in this year's World Championships at Berlin. He lowered his world records to 9.58 seconds in the 100 meters and 19.19 in the 200 and added a relay gold.
Gay, the former Lafayette High School and University of Arkansas standout, won the same events at the previous Worlds (2007 at Osaka, Japan).
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This year, he placed second in the 100, bypassed the 200 because of a groin injury and missed the relay when teammates were disqualified during preliminaries.
Never mind that in earning a silver medal, Gay lowered his American record in the 100 to 9.71.
Never mind that a month later, he dropped that record to 9.69 — the exact time that Bolt had posted to win Olympic gold.
At 27, despite a sore groin, Gay is the second-fastest human of all time. Yet, few people seem to care.
He says he understands.
"I guess it doesn't bother me because I understand how crazy 9.5 is," Gay said last week during a phone interview. "Then again, I feel like I can run 9.5 or a 9.6-low. I really believe that in my heart."
So how would Gay summarize his season?
"I'm extremely pleased with my second-place finish at the World Championships," he said. "I ran a PR (personal record). Unfortunately, I came in second. But I'm very pleased with my season, and I'm pleased with what I call the season after the season. Because the big meet is the World Championships but, after the season, it's a fun time. I enjoyed that time of the season as well."
Gay said his marketing and agent team, along with family and friends, gave him perspective and support.
"They let me realize what I'd done. I kind of took it and accepted the fact that I'm the second-fastest man ever in history, and I'm grateful for that," he said. "I think (I) did get overshadowed. Rightfully. That's the truth, and I can respect that. Especially when a guy runs 9.58. It only makes sense."
He cited NBA stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to explain.
"It's like Kobe versus LeBron, and Kobe scores 105 points and LeBron scores 85. It was a great game. But, hey, the 105 points are going to override the 85."
One wonders what might happen if Gay could stay healthy.
A hamstring injury, suffered after running an American-record 9.77 at the U.S. Olympic Trials, kept him from training for the month preceding the Beijing Olympics. He didn't make it past the semifinals.
"Going into Beijing, I was mentally ready, and I was physically ready to run," he said. "I just wasn't race-sharp. I didn't really feel any pain or anything like that, but I was probably only 75 percent fully healthy, ready to race."
Disappointed by his result, Gay nevertheless relished a "great" Olympic experience.
"The only bad memory was not making the final, but it wasn't really bad. It was something I accepted. I had to accept it like a man — 'Hey, you didn't make the finals (but) you did your best' — and go on to the next thing and get ready," he said. "I have memories of all the times of being in the (Olympic) Village and eating with my friends, meeting a lot of people from a lot of different countries and things like that. But I don't have the memory, when you watch the '08 Olympics on video; I'm not in the finals. So it took me a while to get over that."
He estimates that he was at 80 percent to 85 percent capacity at Berlin because he was unable to do his usual workouts or practice starts.
Reports said Gay would have post-season surgery to repair his groin. Not so fast.
"I'm going to go get a specialist to look at it and see what my options are," said Gay, who will be seen in the next two weeks by a Philadelphia doctor. "Once I get a diagnosis, see what the exact problem is, I'm going to go from there."
Gay continues to split time under two coaches.
Lance Brauman, his coach at Barton Community College and Arkansas, finished a one-year prison term more than a year ago. November through April, Gay is part of a stable of elite runners under Brauman's watch at Clermont, Fla.
The rest of the year, Gay turns to his technical guru, Jon Drummond, based in Arlington, Texas. Known for superior starts, Drummond led off Team USA's 4-by-100 relays at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, earning a silver medal and then a gold.
The only change Gay is considering is parting with his Escalade.
"Aston-Martin is actually my favorite car," he said. "Financially, it's a pretty expensive car. I have to be wise about making decisions like that. But ... I worked really hard, and my agent (Mark Wetmore) wants me to treat myself."
Agents tend to notice medals and records.