Though he's just a casual observer of Thoroughbred racing, Lexington native Tyson Gay, who won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, went to Keeneland on Sunday and said he could relate to the four-legged athletes on several levels.
As one of the world's leading track and field sprinters, Gay has endured many of the tribulations horsemen deal with — from the ailments that come with consistently training at the top level to being in a sport that at times has come under scrutiny for its use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Another shared trait Gay discovered while visiting his hometown track is that few revere their fleet-footed performers like Kentuckians.
Before taking in a day of racing as Keeneland's honored guest, Gay reflected on his multiple world championship titles, his angst at finishing fourth in the 100- meter finals at the recent London Olympics, and why he feels there is still an upside to his form at age 30.
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"I don't get to get home a lot, and for me, to the meet the people who appreciate what I do, for people to recognize and respect what I do means a lot," Gay said before holding a Q&A in the Keeneland paddock. "I just want to come out and enjoy the fans and give back to the people who have supported me my whole career.
"I've been doing this at a high level for a very long time, pretty much since I was a collegiate athlete. I've had two, three surgeries and not just small surgeries, so to keep on fighting at this level is very tough, but you have to stay positive and keep pushing. And I've had some great fans and people from the hometown really supporting me."
Gay reiterated Sunday he plans to stick around to compete in the Rio Olympics in 2016, a decision partially brought on by the fact he wasn't in peak form when trying to tackle Usain Bolt — winner of the 100 and 200 meters at the last two Olympic games. Gay, the top-ranked 100-meter runner in 2010, cut his 2011 season short to have hip surgery and didn't return to full-time training until late spring.