Oregon, June 26 – Tyson Gay clocked a wind-aided 9.75sec in the 100m heats at the US athletics championships, and said he has plenty of room to improve before a World Championship showdown with Usain Bolt.
With a wind of 3.4m/sec at his back, Gay posted the seventh-fastest time ever run under any conditions.
"Technically it was horrible," he said. "The false start threw me off.
"I had too much going through my mind," he added. "When I got out of the blocks, I felt sloppy, felt someone beside me. I think it was Leroy Dixon, who was winning until about 60. Then I caught up with the field and tried to run relaxed through the finish line."
The brief appearance was Gay’s only one of the four-day meeting. As defending world champion in the 100m and 200m, Gay has a bye into both events at the World Championships in Berlin in August, and secured his inclusion in the US team with his first-round start.
After consultation with his coaches he decided that he would stick to his plan to skip the remaining rounds.
But Gay said his first 100m race of 2009 showed he was ready – after an injury marred 2008 campaign – to challenge the world’s best.
That includes Jamaica’s Bolt, who won the 100m and 200m gold in Beijing in world record-setting style, although Gay said he wasn’t trying to send anyone a message.
"Not necessarily to anybody in particular, but more for myself," he said. "I knew it was wind-aided, so of course it doesn’t go into the books … it still lets me know that my legs are ready to turn over faster."
Gay had already shown on May 30 that he was back in form, notching the third-fastest 200m time ever when he clocked 19.58sec in New York.
Bolt, who set the world record of 9.69sec in Beijing, clocked a wind-aided 9.77 over 100m at Ostrava on June 17.
In Gay’s absence, Friday’s semi-finals here will feature Shawn Crawford and Walter Dix as well as rising star Michael Rodgers.
The women’s 100m heats produced a slew of familiar semi-finalists, with Allyson Felix, Muna Lee, Lauryn Williams, Carmelita Jeter and Torri Edwards advancing.
Olympic champion Stephanie Brown-Trafton won the women’s discus with a throw of 64.25m.
But Bryan Clay’s hopes of adding the 2009 world title to the Olympic decathlon gold he claimed in Beijing were dashed by injury.
Clay hurt his left hamstring on Tuesday and and withdrew on Thursday morning. The 2005 world champion, Clay failed to finish at the 2007 worlds and had no bye to fall back on.
Beijing Olympic gold medallist LaShawn Merritt eased into the semi-finals of the 400m with a time of 45.23.
"I felt good," said Merritt, who must finish in the top three to earn a chance to challenge for the world title held by compatriot Jeremy Wariner.
Merritt said Wariner’s decision to run the 200m here didn’t greatly alter his approach.
"I’m still going to go out and do what I have to do," he said. "It may not be as fast of a race as if he was in it."
Amy Begley edged Olympic bronze medallist Shalane Flanagan to win the women’s 10,000m, and hometown favorite Galen Rupp won the men’s 10,000m.
Bernard Lagat, the reigning 1,500m and 5,000m world champion, also used the meet as a tune-up, posting the 11th fastest time in the 800m heats in his only race of the week.