Gay throws down the 200m gauntlet to Bolt

World champion returns to top gear with third-fastest time ever at the distance

It seems that Dwain Chambers will have to go back to the drawing board. After blazing a trail through the winter season, taking the European indoor title and the European indoor record at 60 metres, the former drugs offender declared he was working on a summer master plan by the name of Project Bolt. The trouble is the 31-year-old Londoner has not been the only speed merchant seeking a way to close the gap on the great untouchable of world sprinting. On Saturday evening, after Chambers had moved into pole position in the European 100m rankings, Tyson Gay uncorked a 200m performance in New York that would have made even the laid-back Usain Bolt sit up and take note.

Amid the spectacular Lightning Bolt show at the Beijing Olympics last August, it passed virtually without notice that Gay was a good way short of full fitness as he bowed out of the 100m at the semi-final stage. Clearly, the Kentuckyan was still suffering the after-effects of the hamstring injury that sent him crashing to the track in the 200m at the US trials. On Saturday, he was back to form with a vengeance in the Reebok Grand Prix meeting. The reigning world champion at 100m and 200m, Gay blitzed round the curve in the 200m en route to a stunning clocking of 19.58sec. It was the third-fastest ever time at the distance, behind Bolt's world record 19.30sec in Beijing and the 19.32sec recorded by Michael Johnson at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

"My goal for the 200m this summer was to run 19.5sec but I wasn't expecting to run it so early," Gay reflected. It probably came as something of a surprise to Bolt too. "He's probably excited," Gay said. "He knows he's going to have great competition." After what happened in Beijing, some competition would make a change when Bolt guns for Gay's global titles at the World Championships in Berlin in August.

Chambers, for all his impressive form on the boards in the winter, still has a bit of ground to make up before he gets within range of the Jamaican, or indeed the American. Competing at Kalamata, in Greece, on Saturday, he won the 100m in 10.06sec and the 200m in 20.58sec, confessing afterwards: "It took an awful lot out of me." Still, his 100m time was faster than Asafa Powell managed for that distance in New York, Bolt's predecessor as world record holder finishing seventh in 10.10sec.

The Big Apple meet featured a shock defeat for Tirunesh Dibaba, the Ethiopian Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion. She was beaten over 5,000m by the emerging young Kenyan Linet Masai. Tasha Danvers flew the British flag, winning the 400m hurdles in 55.19sec.

Tonight, Christine Ohuruogu, Britain's Olympic 400m champion, runs at 200m at Hengelo in the Netherlands. The Olympic triple jump silver medallist Phillips Idowu opens his season at Chania, in Crete, where 400m hurdler Rhys Williams returns to the continental circuit for the first time since his bronze medal run at the European Championships in Gothenburg in 2006.