Commentary

Wind or not, Gay's 100 performance was something special

Updated: June 30, 2008, 9:41 AM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

EUGENE, Ore. -- Fortunately for fans, other sports don't need to account for wind or weather or any other conditions.

[+] EnlargeTyson Gay
AP Photo/David J. PhillipWhen Tyson Gay initially crossed the finish line Sunday, he thought he had a world record in the 100 meters.

Baseball officials don't say, Joe DiMaggio safely hit in 56 consecutive games, but it doesn't count as the record because 20 of those games were against the St. Louis Browns and Washington Senators, teams so bad they should have had Walter Matthau as a manager.

Golf officials don't say Tiger Woods' U.S. Open score doesn't count because it was a sunny 78 degrees without humidity and so his drives carried farther.

And swimming officials don't say, Michael Phelps' newest world record doesn't count because it was tide-aided by a full moon over Omaha.

Paging Tom Dempsey ... the NFL just called. It's taking away your record for longest field goal. The wind was over the limit.

Track officials, however, do monitor such things. And given the differences a tailwind can make in a performance, track officials must.

So, when Tyson Gay blazed across the finish line in the 100-meter final Sunday at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials -- he did not ease up this time -- the crowd had two swift reactions.

First, the fans looked to the Hayward Field scoreboard, where they saw "9.68," and gasped. Then, they looked at the official wind conditions on the board, where they saw a reading of 4.1 meters per second (about 9½ mph), and groaned. The wind was roughly twice the allowable speed for the time to count as a record. The run is estimated to have been the equivalent of a 9.86 nonaided time.

Nonetheless, it is the fastest a human being has ever covered 100 meters without wheels, an engine or a flight attendant telling them to return their trays to their full upright position. Gay's run topped Obadele Thompson's time of 9.69 at altitude in El Paso with a wind of 5.3 meters per second in 1996.

Gay said it meant a lot to him to know he ran faster than anyone ever has, even if it isn't an official record.

"I'm pretty sure people are going to be stepping down into that area, but I am glad my body went that fast because I believe at some point I can do it," Gay said. "Because when I ran 9.77 [in a heat Saturday], it felt so good, and I was so relaxed, and I could have gone faster then."

Yes, he could have. As fast as he ran that quarterfinal heat -- his time of 9.77 not only was the American record, but also the third fastest time ever -- he eased up at the end to save himself for Sunday's semifinal and final (not to mention next weekend's 200, an event in which Gay is also the world champion).

Gay said he actually felt as if he ran faster in Saturday's quarterfinal heat than he did Sunday -- and based on the wind conversions, he did -- because he ran looser and relaxed. Although it appeared he broke out well from the starting blocks in the final, Gay said he panicked a bit at the start and pressed for the first part of the race. Halfway through, he said he began to relax and run easier and then "made sure I ran to the second white line instead of the first, like I did in the preliminary."

In that preliminary Saturday, Gay nearly had a disaster that could have ended his Olympic 100 hopes when he eased up too much and too early to conserve energy. He was passed by several other runners and had to speed up again in the final 10 meters to finish fourth and advance to the quarterfinal.

"That was a mistake," Gay said. "I talked to my coach [Jon Drummond] and he said, 'A champion doesn't do that. You have to come out and you have to go down and look at the line. You come out and you see the clock and you see the line and you run to it.'"

Gay's response to that mistake with the two fastest 100 races ever run by an American sets up an exciting match in Beijing. The U.S. versus Jamaica, Gay versus Usain Bolt, who beat the world champion last month in New York with a world-record run of 9.72.

"I think Tyson can go faster," U.S. assistant coach Harvey Glance said. "When I saw the 9.77 Saturday, I knew it was going to be a fast race [Sunday]. And what I'm really excited about is seeing those 100-meter times translated to the 200 meters. We've got some 19.6s on the board.

"You all might see some more crazy stuff before this is over," he added.

By the way, do America's Cup victories count if they're wind-aided?

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is at jimcaple.net.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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