EUGENE, Ore. — Tyson Gay figured to be ”the face“ of the United States' Olympic track and field team.
Until he came tumbling down Saturday in the first heat of the U.S. Olympic track and field trials men's 200-meter quarterfinals due to a ”slight strain“ of his left hamstring.
So Gay, the reigning world champion at 100 and 200 meters and a graduate of Lexington's Lafayette High School, is out of the 200 at the Beijing Olympics. And his chances in the 100 meters are in doubt.
For a moment, Gay looked fine coming out of the blocks.
About a dozen steps into the race, though, pure shock struck the Hayward Field sellout crowd of 20,834.
Gay grimaced, stumbled, then crashed to track.
The immediate fear was a pulled hamstring.
Initial evaluation at the track, though, indicated a less-serious ”severe cramp“ of the left hammy.
Later, an MRI showed the strain. Not as bad as a pull, but worse than a cramp.
Gay's mother, Daisy, said Tyson gave her the results via text message. She said that Tyson can resume light training in a few days but will need to take a couple of weeks off from hard workouts. The Olympics open Aug. 8. The first two rounds of the men's 100 are set for Aug. 15.
The reigning world champion in the 100 and 200, Gay earned a spot on the Olympic team by winning the 100 meters exactly a week before his 200-meter mishap. His time that day was wind-aided, but still the fastest under any conditions: 9.68. During the quarterfinals, he set a wind-legal American record of 9.77.
Daisy Gay Lowe said that Tyson plans to run in Beijing.
She was one of the first to comfort him at the track, in the Bowerman Building that anchors the stadium where the 100-meter dash starts.
”He didn't say much of anything,“ she said. ”I could see it in his face. I could just see it in his eyes. So, honestly, I didn't give him a chance to say anything. I just started reassuring him and building back up his confidence that it's going to be OK.“
A similar incident knocked Gay out of the 200 at the 2004 Olympic trials, held at Sacramento, Calif. He made it to the finals, but pulled up as he came out of the curve due to a severe cramp.
His mother put a positive spin on Saturday.
”I don't think this is going to hinder anything actually,“ she said. ”It's going to be a small delay for right now and just getting better. I think it's really going to help him to refocus on the 100. I think this is just going to be one of those things that has happened for a reason, and it's just going to make him stronger.“
Tyson Gay issued a statement that he was ”extremely disappointed.“
He was carted off the track and taken to his hotel, where he was treated with ice and compression.
”Before I went out on the track, I felt a little tightness in my hamstring,“ Gay said. ”So I had kind of a bad feeling. When I came off the curve the first two steps were fine, and then I felt it, sort of a pull, about 40 meters in. Once I was on the ground it didn't hurt as much as when it happened.“
Through Global Sports and Marketing, which represents him, Gay said his fall was ”just one of those things.“
With Gay out of the picture, Rodney Martin led the semifinalists in 20.04 seconds. Shawn Crawford, the 2004 Olympic gold-medalist, won the other heat in 20.21.
■ Also knocked out was high-hurdler Allen Johnson, the 1996 gold-medalist and seven-time national champ. He strained a tendon along the back of the lower leg and pulled up four hurdles into his first-round heat.