There was a late addition yesterday to the cast of World Championship stars who will be parading at the Aviva British Grand Prix at Gateshead International Stadium this afternoon. It is fair to say he was the biggest star in Berlin. Fortunately for Tyson Gay, though, it is not the 6ft 5in Usain Bolt but the 8ft tall Berlino the Bear.
The giant clowning mascot came closest to stealing the show from the joker of a Jamaican sprinter (below right) in the German capital – to such an extent Bolt appeared for the 200m final sporting a tee-shirt proclaiming "Ich bin ein Berlino". The original Berlino also famously crashed into a stack of hurdles while giving a celebratory piggyback to Melaine Walker, the Jamaican winner of the women's 400m hurdles.
Walker will not be among the 32 World Championship medallists on Tyneside today. Gay (below left) will be on the track at Gateshead, and just about in one piece following his collision with the Lightning Bolt in Berlin.
The man from Kentucky pushed his body so hard in attempting to keep within range of Bolt in the 100m final 15 days ago he aggravated the groin problem that restricted his training ahead of the World Championships. He withdrew from the 200m in Berlin and today's 100m will be his first shift back at the home-straight office since the night he ran the race of his life, a 9.71sec US record, only to find himself eclipsed by Bolt's 9.58sec world record blitz.
Marc Burns, the Trinidadian who finished seventh in 10.00sec, is the only other Berlin 100m finalist in a Gateshead field that also includes the 2003 world champion, Kim Collins from St Kitts, plus three-quarters of Britain's bronze medal winning 4x100m relay team, Marlon Devonish, Tyrone Edgar and Harry Aikines-Aryeetey. The chances are that Gay will wind up chasing the clock, although the forecasted wind and rain may put the UK allcomers' record – the world record equalling 9.77sec Asafa Powell clocked on a fair Gateshead day in June 2006 – out of range of the 27-year-old American. Another mitigating factor could be the lingering groin problem which now looks certain to force him under the surgeon's knife in search of a permanent cure. "We'll just have to see," Gay said yesterday, when asked whether he would be targeting the best ever time on British soil. "I'm just a tad sore but I'll do my best to get it because I'm trying to still run fast.
"My injury's about the same. The guy who's been working on it said the quick way, and maybe safer way, is to do the surgery, to make sure it doesn't happen again. So it's looking like at the end of the season I'm going to see who's the best surgeon out there."
In addition to Gay and Berlino the Gateshead meeting features the four British athletes who bagged individual medals in Berlin: Jessica Ennis, Phillips Idowu, Lisa Dobriskey and Jenny Meadows.