Usain who? Gay completes epic week with fastest 100m this year
American sprinter clocks 9.78sec just days after first win over Bolt as Britain's big names disappoint
Saturday 14 August 2010
It was not so much a case of coming past after the Lord Mayor's Show as trailing in the wake of Typhoon Tyson.
At the end of the opening night of the Aviva London Grand Prix, some of Britain's medal-winning heroes from the European Championships were ushered around the track on a lap of honour. They did so more than a little sheepishly: our runners, jumpers and throwers may have reigned in Spain a fortnight ago but not one of them could do so on rain-soaked home ground.
It would have been a night of some deflation for the sold-out 16,500 crowd at Crystal Palace in south London had Tyson Gay not delivered a regal 9.78sec flourish in the 24th and final event on the programme. There was no comedown for the 27-year-old red-hot American speed merchant.
In Stockholm seven days previously Gay had been too quick for the world's fastest man, ending Usain Bolt's two-year unbeaten streak at 100m. Last night he took on the clock, and won.
There was never any chance of Bolt's freakish 9.58sec world record coming to grief, but despite the unfavourable cold and damp Gay blitzed out of his blocks and clocked the fastest time in the world this year – a 9.78sec that eclipsed the 9.82sec recorded in warmer climes this summer by both Bolt and Asafa Powell. It was the second fastest 100m ever seen on British soil, behind Powell's world record-equalling 9.77sec at Gateshead in 2006.
It was pretty damned special. All the more so when it emerged that Gay had tweaked his groin running in the heats. "I wasn't expecting to go that fast in these conditions but I knew I was in good shape," he said. "I was hobbling a bit at the end. My groin is a little sore but I think it's OK.
"I wasn't necessarily sending a message to Usain and Asafa, I was just running my own race. It's great to be on top of the world rankings – it's important to me – but I know there's more to come. This is not the best shape I've ever been in. I'm still dealing with a few little injuries."
It was just as well that the British athletes got their coronations in early. After the European Championships gold rush in Barcelona, they were reduced to scrapping for minor placings. The runners-up spot clinched by Mo Farah in the 3,000m proved to be the best performance of the domestic bunch, followed by third-place finishes by Dai Greene in the 400m hurdles and Lisa Dobriskey in the 1500m. Phillips Idowu could finish only sixth in the triple jump.
Perhaps the post-medal depression was to have been expected. After all, Barcelona was the season's focal point for Farah, Greene, Idowu and co, and they poured all of their reserves into some inspired major championship medal-winning performances that will linger in the memory long after the Diamond League circus has left town. Then, of course, there was always liable to be a reality check, given the presence of world-class, rather than continental-standard, opposition.
The days are long gone when you could knock up a double century for England at The Oval, then skip fielding duty for a couple of hours and nip down to Crystal Palace to win the 440 yards hurdles in the National Olympian Association Games. Very long gone. It was back in July 1866 when the 18-year-old WG Grace achieved that unlikely sporting double.
Greene has had a fortnight to recover from his outstanding 400m hurdles victory in the Montjuic Olympic Stadium but was unable to summon the wherewithal to match, let alone better, his Barcelona 48.12sec clocking. The Swansea Harrier did produce a fighting finish to sneak third place in 49.09sec but he was a good way behind the American Bershawn Jackson, who prevailed in 48.12sec, and the Puerto Rican Javier Culson, the runner-up in 48.17sec – respectively the bronze and silver medallists at last year's World Championships in Berlin.
"I found it difficult to race again after Barcelona," Greene said. "I was a bit rusty. I was scrapping all over the place." The Welshman could have been speaking on behalf of all of his team-mates. One by one they bit the dust – none more spectacularly than Idowu.
Two weeks ago the Belgrave Harrier showed his world-champion triple jump pedigree, taking gold with a lifetime best 17.81 metres. Last night he was sixth with 16.54m. "I was just tired," he lamented.
Having won both the 5,000m and 10,000m in Barcelona, Farah had more reason than anyone to be tired but he finished strongly to take second place behind America's Bernard Lagat in the 3,000m, clocking 7min 40.75sec.
The last time Oscar Pistorius ran in a Grand Prix in Britain in 2007, he met with a monsoon in Sheffield and was disqualified when he could not keep his carbon-fibre prosthetics within his designated lane. The heavens opened on him last night, by at least the rain stopped by the time the 23-year-old triple Paralympic champion started in the 400m B race. But the damp track put paid to any prospects of his achieving a Commonwealth Games qualifying standard 45.95sec.
The Blade Runner did pip Graham Hedman for seventh place but in a time of 46.93sec, with the Londoner Conrad Williams the victor in 46.09.
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