Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008

10. Tyson Gay

United States
Age: 25

Can track and field catch a break? Less than a week after clocking the fastest sprint in human history, Tyson Gay, 25, tumbled to the track at the U.S. trials in Eugene, Ore. Fearing the worst, the crowd gasped as Gay clutched his left hamstring, wincing in pain. But he had suffered just a mild strain. The defending world champion in the 100-m and 200-m sprints, Gay was trying to qualify for the 200-m race in Beijing. He's out of the 200-m, and we're left wondering, Will he be healthy enough for the 100-m?

Gay has said he'll be healed by the Olympics. "I've had conversations with the physicians, massage therapists — everyone," says former Olympic sprinter Jon Drummond, one of Gay's coaches. "Everything they've told me gives me confidence that he'll be O.K." At the trials, Gay broke the American record in the quarterfinals of the 100-m, finishing in 9.77 sec. He followed that with a historic final: a time of 9.68 sec., the fastest ever recorded, but unofficial because of a strong tailwind. Still, that run made Gay the man to beat in Beijing — before he strained that hammy. At least history offers some comfort. Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene pulled up lame in the 200-m at the 2000 trials. They both won Olympic gold in other races (Greene the 100-m, Johnson the 400-m).

Unlike many top sprinters, Gay is a shy, dry competitor who doesn't talk smack on the track. And he doesn't always eat right when he's off it. "He loves McDonald's," says Drummond. That's not exactly the diet of champions. "He's been eating McDonald's his whole life, and look at what he's done," says Drummond. "Who am I to say it's bad for him?" Gay is a freak. If he can run this fast on Big Macs, how can a tight leg slow him down?