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Sprinter Gay ready to overcome pain-filled year

Jamaican sprinter Steve Mullings (R) competes against Tyson Gay of the U.S. in the men's 100-metre race at the New York Diamond League Grand
Jamaican sprinter Steve Mullings (R) competes against Tyson Gay of the U.S. in the men's 100-metre race at the New York Diamond League Grand

By Gene Cherry

EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) - Tyson Gay is sleeping well these days, and that is a good sign.

The pain of a year in which America's best sprinter did not make it to the track until a couple months ago because of hip surgery is slowly subsiding and Gay can turn his attention to making the U.S. team for the London Olympics in the 100 meters.

"I am feeling fast," he told a small gathering of reporters on the eve of the U.S. Olympic trials at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field.

Fast but not totally pain free.

"I am still waiting for that moment when I don't feel nothing," the 2009 world silver medalist said. "But a lot of people know I am a fighter. ...

"To me, if I make the team, that would be great."

The American record holder underwent hip surgery last July and the recovery dragged on and on.

The quiet, almost shy Kentucky native did not run a race until June 9 when he clocked a confidence-building 10.00 seconds to win the "B" race at the New York Diamond League meeting.

Now, beginning on Saturday, the former world double sprint champion faces three rounds over two days of the fastest show at the trials.

"This is it," he said succinctly.

His never-yielding determination alone would probably carry him to a fast time for one race, but what about three in what mostly likely will be cold, rainy conditions?

"I just have to manage it the right way," he said. "The plan is to get through the first round as easy as possible, the second round and then let it hang out in the final."

Making the team, he said, would mean "everything."

NOT CHASING BOLT

Even with the injury and surgery, Gay believes he is stronger and certainly more mature.

He won the 100 meters at the 2008 trials but suffered a hamstring injury in the 200 that took its time to heal. He was then eliminated in the semi-finals of the 100 at the 2008 Games.

"In (Beijing) 2008 I was younger," said Gay, who is still seeking his first Olympic medal of any color. "Usain Bolt was the world record holder and I wanted the world record. My body wasn't able to handle it."

The motivation now is not about Bolt or Jamaican training partner Yohan Blake, the reigning world 100 champion.

"I think it's more to see the what I can do," Gay said.

Gay and technical coach Jon Drummond have attempted to replicate the trials setting with hard, repetitive sessions of 60 to 80m even when Gay was tired.

But the Olympic trials are a totally different show.

They feature competitors like 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, who is on the comeback trail and undefeated this season, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix and a host of other speedsters.

Even fine-tuned, healthy sprinters have their work cut out to finish in the top three, the cut-off for making the U.S. team. Fail, and there is no trip to London.

"Part of me says: 'These guys are not going to sit down and let me come back after a year and give it to me easy,'" Gay said.

As he prepares for a cold, rainy two days in Oregon, he is reminded of similar conditions in 2010 when he ran a sizzling 9.78 seconds in London a week after defeating Bolt in Stockholm.

"It does give me confidence," Gay said.

Both for Eugene and London.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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