Paris – The men's 100m at the London Olympics is wide open and promises to be “spectacular”, according to the world's second fastest man, Tyson Gay.
Gay was speaking after outgunning US teammate Justin Gatlin, champion in the Athens Games in 2004, in the Diamond League meet in Paris on Friday, leaving it late to claim victory in 9.99 seconds on a wet track at Stade de France.
The blue riband event of track and field promises to be a sizzler in the British capital, with a host of sprinters hitting form just as reigning Olympic double sprint champion Usain Bolt showed he was fallible.
Bolt was beaten twice in the Jamaican trials by training partner and current world 100m champion Yohan Blake, and has now withdrawn from the July 20 meet in Monaco after picking up what his coach Glen Mills labelled a “slight problem”.
That intrigue can only add to what is building up to be one of the most competitive events in recent history.
“There are a lot of people now in the 100m, it is open for the Games,” said Gay, who claimed golds in the 100 and 200m at the 2007 worlds in Osaka.
“Bolt, Blake, Gatlin, my training partner Bledman. It will be spectacular!”
Although Gay, whose 9.69sec is second only to Bolt's world record of 9.58, recorded a good reaction time in Friday's race, he wilted badly in the opening 15 metres to give Gatlin and France's Christophe Lemaitre a headstart.
However, Gay proceeded to reel the duo in and flung himself at the finish line to nip Gatlin by four-hundredths of a second.
“I tried to be patient,” Gay acknowledged. “I'm strong mentally and ready for challenges. Trials was a faster race but here a better one for me technically.”
Gay said his confidence was growing after a slow return from a hip injury that required surgery.
“I feel pretty good, considering I came back and made the team. I was under a lot of stress, mentally and physically, early in the season, but I feel a lot better now,” he said.
A first defeat of the season did not dent Gatlin's ever-high confidence levels.
“I won the gold in Athens and the same thing should happen in London,” said the 30-year-old who came back from a four-year doping ban in May 2011.
“Obviously the trials were better because I won. I also had some jet lag.”
Lemaitre, 22, was racing on home turf on the back of having sealed his second European 100m title in Helsinki.
And the French record holder in the 100m (9.92) again showed that he could be in the running to upset a US-Caribbean cleansweep of the sprint podiums at the Olympics, as he did in last year's Daegu worlds when he claimed a surprise 200m bronze.
“I'm pleased with placing third,” he said of his 10.08sec performance. “Third behind such top runners is good. Also I reduced the gap between me and the two Americans. I'm now really close to them.
“But I missed my start. I got out of the blocks behind everyone. Even I saw it. I was able to close the gap on the others, but the bad start killed me. There is still some work left to do.” – Sapa-AFP