Gay: Stockholm victory over Bolt was 'important for the sport'

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The Independent Online

Tyson Gay has yet to get back to his native Kentucky but on the streets of south London this week he has been able to gauge the impact of the knockout blow he delivered in Stockholm's 1912 Olympic Stadium a week ago. Ahead of his appearance at the London Grand Prix at Crystal Palace tonight, the second-fastest man in history was taken on a London bus yesterday to visit the 2012 Olympic Stadium in east London. "I know this may sound weird," he said, reflecting on his 100m win against Usain Bolt in Stockholm a week ago, "but I've received more attention from that victory than I did when I won the 100m and 200m world titles in 2007.

"Even though there weren't any medals on the line, it really meant a lot to people – to fans of the sport, to the people over here, to the people of my hometown," Gay continued. "I went to the TGI restaurant near the athletes' hotel in Croydon the other day and I had about 15 girls come over, mainly Jamaican I think, wanting to take my picture and stuff. I was shocked.

"Then I walked past a bus stop and a bunch of kids shouted out, 'Tyson Gay! It's him.' And they came running for my autograph. I also went to a Jamaican restaurant and the cook and the staff wanted a picture with me. They said, 'We're Bolt fans but we respect you.'

"It's meant a lot to me to see other people's responses. It took two days or so for me to realise that everyone in Kentucky and my hometown of Lexington were so proud of me. I think it was very important that I beat Usain last week – for myself and also for the sport."

It was Bolt's first defeat in a 100m final for two years, since he took the world record to new dimensions with his 9.69sec clocking in the Olympic final in Beijing and his winning time of 9.58sec ahead of a stunned Gay at the World Championships in Berlin last summer. It was clear in the DN Galan Meeting in the Swedish capital that Bolt was still a long way below par after struggling to overcome an Achilles problem and the Jamaican has since decided to curtail his 2010 track season, cancelling a scheduled rematch in Brussels on 27 August.

Gay said: "I think the result was important for the sport because so many involved in track and field said he would never be beaten. Some people said I downplayed my victory. It wasn't the victory; it was more the time [Gay won in 9.84sec, Bolt finished second in 9.97sec].

"I wanted us both to run a supernatural, superhuman time because there was so much hype built up around the race. Bolt wasn't in his 9.5 shape but he and I were both in 9.8 shape. I just came out with the victory."

It would be a major surprise if Gay failed to emerge with a victory tonight. The field for the 100m at Crystal Palace has been shorn of the former world record holder Asafa Powell. Bolt's Jamaican team-mate has been advised not to risk aggravating the hamstring problem which caused him to miss the Stockholm race last week.

Today's highlights

6.09 pm After his recent double gold success in the 10,000m and 5,000m at the European Championships in Barcelona, Mo Farah will be targeting victory in the 3,000m.

7.04pm Dai Greene will try to break Kriss Akabusi's UK record of 47.82sec in the 400m hurdles.

7.49pm Hoping to bounce back from her disappointment in Barcelona, Lisa Dobriskey goes up against the Russian Anna Alminova in the 1500m.

7.59pm Michael Rimmer hopes to go one better than his 800m silver at the European Championships.

8.48pm Mark Lewis-Francis will race against Tyson Gay in the 100m.

TV BBC 2, 18.00-21.00.