Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Can Bolt be beaten? Gay's golden Olympic goal

By Gary Morley and Alex Thomas, CNN
updated 9:04 AM EST, Thu February 16, 2012
Former world champion sprinter Tyson Gay is seeking to put past disappointment behind him at London 2012. Former world champion sprinter Tyson Gay is seeking to put past disappointment behind him at London 2012.
Gay goes for gold in London
Beating Bolt
Bolt blasts away in Berlin
Injury blights Beijing Olympics
Gay's Osaka treble
Gatlin back on track
  • U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay is hoping to prove a point at the 2012 London Olympics
  • The 2007 triple world champion missed the Beijing 100 meter final after struggling with injury
  • He is hoping to prevent Jamaica's world record-holder Usain Bolt defending his three titles
  • Gay says he wants to be remembered as a clean runner, "someone who ran with his heart"

(CNN) -- There's a fine line between success and failure in top-level sports, perhaps nowhere more so than in track and field sprint events.

Tyson Gay knows how true that is.

The American was a triple world champion in 2007, but since then has seen Usain Bolt usurp him in the most spectacular way with records and titles galore.

However, the difference between them is still only a few hundredths of a second.

"It's a huge difference -- not on paper, but in the race it is. In a race, a loss is a loss and you can see it clearly. So that's why I want to get what's on paper a lot closer," Gay told CNN's Aiming for Gold show.

Tyson Gay's Olympic ambition
Human to Hero: Tyson Gay

His quickest time over the 100 meters is 9.69 seconds, set in China in 2009. That matched Bolt's effort in winning Olympic gold in Beijing the previous year.

When they went head to head at the 2009 world championships, Gay clocked 9.71 -- good enough for second place only as the Jamaican took his title with a new record 9.58.

"If I do my best and I don't win then I have to be satisfied with that," the 29-year-old Kentucky native said.

"So when I ran 9.71, I was mad I didn't run 9.69, but it was so close that it was almost like I couldn't be mad because I knew that we worked to do what we tried to do, and I just took the loss."

Gay has only beaten Bolt once in a 100m final, in 2010, and also had the edge in the 200m final at the 2007 worlds.

But a hamstring injury suffered in the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials sent his performances into a spiral, and he did not qualify for the 100m final in Beijing.

Overcoming adversity

"It was like coming off a high and going to the lowest point of my life in a span of 12 months," he said.

"Being a champion I wanted to follow up with an Olympic medal, and after going through the trials and having the American record in the 100m dash I was feeling good, and then I pulled my hamstring in the 200m and that's when things just changed.

I really believe this is going to be one of the most exciting Olympics ever in history, and I like a challenge
Tyson Gay

"I was down trying to rehab it, trying to go through a lot of things, ups and downs, struggles mentally trying to get my mind together.

"It was very tough. I believe when you run track and field, you're on that thin line between running too fast in practice, running too fast in meets, not having enough time to recover and so forth -- and that's just something I had to learn to deal with over the years."

Gay insists he is in much better shape to finally achieve his dream at this year's Olympics in London.

"I really believe that I'm going to be healthy this year and that's what I'm looking forward to," he said.

"Last year for me to run with basically one leg, I ran 9.7. I can be a lot more dangerous, as long as I stay healthy and get a lot stronger in the weight room."

Off-track issues

The Jamaican sprint team was hit by a doping scandal ahead of the 2009 world championships which saw five members -- not including Bolt -- under scrutiny, and last year their compatriot Steve Mullings was handed a lifetime ban after testing positive for a masking agent.

Gay's fellow American, former world and Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, is on the comeback trail after serving a four-year ban for steroid use.

With that context, London 2012 organizers have said that this Games will be heavily scrutinized to make sure illegal doping does not occur.

I can be a lot more dangerous, as long as I stay healthy and get a lot stronger
Tyson Gay

"That's one thing I respect about having the Games here in London, they don't play no games and they were big on the anti-doping thing," Gay said.

"There's a possibility that they're a little bit less forgiving than America is when it comes to that and I really respect them for that."

Family man

Gay is only too aware that he is a role model for aspiring athletes -- including his daughter Trinity.

"She is not a little girl anymore and she is at the age when she understands what I'm doing, so now I'm at a point where I want to be involved in more of her sports," he said.

"Last year was one of the first times going to one of her track meets and it was pretty amazing to watch her run and compete and still keep her spirits up high you when she didn't win.

"In that sense I am trying to balance my time so I can watch her career and I can finish up my career."

With that in mind, Gay is aware that London may provide his best chance to achieve his Olympic goals and leave a golden legacy.

"I really believe this is going to be one of the most exciting Olympics ever in history, and I like a challenge. I want to run with the best, run against the best; that's how I've always lived," said Gay, who has strong ideas of how he'd like to be recalled in the history books.

"As a great runner, as a clean runner, someone who accomplished things without going the other route. Being remembered as someone who gave his all, who ran with his heart. I want to capitalize that with a medal in the Olympics -- a gold medal."

Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Mon August 13, 2012
The moment that Team GB's Mo Farah won the 10,000 meters was a wonderful collision of electricity.
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Mon August 13, 2012
His blistering pace and larger-than-life antics made him the king of the track in London, and bolstered his claims to be a "living legend."
updated 5:44 AM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Disappointment for Nigeria's Muizat Ajoke Odumosu, who came last in the 400m hurdles final, London 2012 Olympics.
The Olympics are generally won and lost long before the opening ceremony cauldron is touched by fire.
updated 3:38 AM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
Fans of the home side, Team GB, wave Union Jack flags during the Olympic Games
CNN's Richard Quest believes the London Games will be regarded as having brought the Olympics concept home.
updated 12:33 PM EDT, Sat August 11, 2012
Strategist Alastair Campbell says he never imagined London 2012 would be quite the triumph it turned out to be.
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Tue August 14, 2012
Award-winning director Danny Boyle celebrates the best of British music in London 2012's Olympic Closing Ceremony.
updated 9:52 AM EST, Thu January 31, 2013
From Usain Bolt's record-setting achievements to an unexpected Ugandan gold, London 2012 has provided a wide array of highlights.
updated 11:05 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
CNN's Amanda Davies recaps the London 2012 Olympics from the opening ceremony on July 27 to the finale on day 16.
updated 1:02 PM EDT, Sun August 12, 2012
Mo Farah and Usain Bolt celebrate their success at the London 2012 Olympic Games by copying each other's
It's been just over two weeks since the Queen parachuted into London's Olympic Stadium, her apricot dress flapping in the breeze.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
When the world's top marathon runners bid to win Olympic gold, they would do well to draw inspiration from one of the greatest athletes in the history of track and field.
updated 12:33 PM EDT, Sat August 11, 2012
Team GB supporters with their faces painted in Union Jack designs at the Olympic Stadium in London.
Alastair Campbell always thought London 2012 would be a success, but never imagined it would be quite the triumph it has turned out to be.
updated 6:21 AM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Adrien Niyonshuti is unlikely to win an Olympic medal, and he will do well to even finish his event, but his story is surely one of the most inspirational.
updated 12:05 PM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
The colors of the Olympic Rings at the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, August 2012.
Olympic fever has cheered up London and made it a more welcoming place, but will optimism be one of the legacies of the Games?
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012
Wojdan Shaherkani's Olympic debut was short, but sweet -- the Saudi judoka said competing at the Games was
London 2012 is the first Olympics to feature women in every national team, with Jacques Rogge hailing a "major boost for gender equality."
updated 8:40 PM EDT, Thu August 9, 2012
An impoverished South Korean gymnast has not only struck Olympic gold, but also reaped a $444,000 donation in a veritable rags to riches tale.
updated 8:46 PM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
Britain's hero Jessica Ennis is set to cash in after winning heptathlon gold, but the poster girl of the 2012 Olympics says fame is not her motivation.
updated 3:46 AM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
China is rallying around fallen hurdler Liu Xiang after he failed to make it past the first-round heat for a second consecutive Olympics.
updated 3:30 PM EDT, Fri August 3, 2012
The first woman to win Olympic gold almost died in a plane crash, but remarkably returned to run again for the U.S. in 1936.
updated 11:04 AM EDT, Tue August 7, 2012
Don Paige could not bear to watch the race he knew he could win. The 1980 Moscow Olympics were the death of a dream for many athletes.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Sat August 4, 2012
Ricardo Blas Jr
While Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt grab the headlines, little-known athletes from around the world keep alive the original spirit of the Olympics.
Athletes spend years eating the right foods ... and then must resist the free fast food in the Olympic village. How do they do it?