Unlike the world’s fastest man, Jamaican Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay does not do flamboyant. Despite his name, Gay is a serious soul — perhaps just because he is so focused on beating Bolt,who can seem invincible.
In interviews, Gay, who comes from Kentucky, talks as if his second-fastest status makes him some kind of loser. Even with so many rival sprinters flagging in his rear-view mirror, he thirsts for more.
But, already, Gay is an extreme high-achiever: a triple World Champion, an American Record Holder and the second fastest man of all time. At the 2007 World Championships, Gay became the second man ever to win titles at 100 meters, 200 meters and the 4×100-meter relay.
Plus, at the U.S. Olympic trials in June 2008, Gay ran a wind-aided 9.68 – the fastest 100 in history, though the tailwind kept his time out of the record books.
In the run-up to the London Olympics, find out what puts a spring in his step.
Fast Facts: Tyson Gay
1. Even when he was small, Tyson Gay ran like lightning. But only when he was 14 did the future track titan beat his sister, Tiffany, who’s a year older and an inspiration to him.
2. Gay is also inspired by his mother, Daisy, who taught him that there was nothing he could not do and instilled in him the will to bounce back from a bad race.
Gay’s flair for running a textbook curve in the 200 meters also helps.
3. Unlike Jamaican rival Usain Bolt, who theatrically mimes the gesture of unleashing an arrow, Tyson avoids clowning around, in step with his upbringing.
The quiet country boy from Lexington, Kentucky, was forbidden from drinking or even handling beer, unless passing the occasional glass to his grandfather. Now nudging 30, Gay has reportedly never even sipped a beer. When he visits a club, he just has a cranberry juice. He appears to be a perfectionist.
4. Gay, who suffers from hamstring niggles, has been accused of overtraining in the past.
“I’d always be out there smashin’,” Gay is quoted as saying.
Now, during training, he holds back a little – a tough ask in a camp featuring five sub-10-second 100-meter runners who call him “old man.”
5. But in August 2010, Gay handed world sprinting number-one Bolt only his second professional 100m defeat, at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm.
Tyson Gay vs Usain Bolt – Stockholm Diamond… by rasjomanny
Tyson Gay remains the only sprinter to have beaten Bolt in a final since Bolt made his first world record run.
6. During his Diamond League defeat, Bolt was carrying an injury, which Gay — the perfect sportsman — acknowledged.
“It feels great to beat Usain but deep down inside I know he is not 100 percent. I look forward to beating him when he is 100 percent,” Gay said.
7. Apparently obsessed with percentages, Gay has given a “100 percent guarantee” that he will never fail a drug test. Few would doubt him.
8. Gay’s one recorded vice is McDonald’s hamburgers – hardly the diet of champions, but Gay has been eating them all his life, without apparent ill effect.
9. Routinely described as modest and respectful, Gay is a strong candidate for the title of the nicest man in track and field — or even sport. A regular presence at missionary Baptist church during his childhood, he still attends services when he goes home. Before races, he listens to gospel music.
10. Despite his almost saintly aura, Gay has huge ambition. He hopes to be recalled in the history books as a great, “clean” runner, who achieved excellence fairly, giving his all.
“I want to capitalize that with a medal in the Olympics — a gold medal,” he told CNN.