FPM Interview: Tyson Gay on Usain Bolt and the motivation of fear

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

Tyson Gay is the only man to have defeated Usain Bolt in a 100-meter final since the Beijing Olympics. Injuries have been a recurring issue for him though, keeping him out of this year's world championships, and preventing him from winning a medal at the 2008 Summer Games. After spending most of this track season on the sideline recovering for various ailments, Gay is setting his sights on Bolt and London.

On Tuesday, Fourth-Place Medal spoke to Gay as he promoted his new partnership with EAS Sports Nutrition. The three-time world championship gold medalist discussed whether he's motivated by glory or fear, his plans for London and whether any NFL player could beat him or Bolt on the track.

Fourth-Place Medal: Everywhere you go, you're announced as the "second-fastest man in history." That sounds great to most people, but I'd assume you don't feel the same.

Tyson Gay: Yeah, I probably don't. That's actually on my Twitter right now. I think it's because I'm an American. I want to be like those other American athletes who break records and get to the top. In America, if you're not No. 1, you're nothing. That may sound weird, but it's the way I feel about it.

FPM: Ian Thorpe [the gold-medal swimmer] recently said his comeback isn't about the titles, but the times. That sounded like the talk of someone who didn't think they could win more titles. What's most important to you?

Tyson Gay: The titles. The title in London. When you win the titles, the times are definitely going to come. That's the most important thing for me. I really want to redeem myself for 2008. I didn't make the finals then and I'm injury free and want to move forward.

FPM: How is your injury? You missed the world championships this year with the hip ailment. What's the training plan for the next few months?

Tyson Gay: It's basically going good. Next month I have tests to check my leg and my hip and the movements, and whether it could move laterally and take some pounding. For the next couple of months, I'm just preparing myself for London, slowly but surely. I'm just all about constant improvement in my training and my nurition to help with my recovery.

FPM: Are you going to have a heavy schedule next spring or is the goal to take it easy before the Olympic trials next summer?

Tyson Gay: I think it'll be in between. I want to stick to the same schedule I had the year before last, which is when I normally run smaller meets in April, run in Manchester as well, run the 4x400 and the 400 before I hit a major meet, which will most likely be New York.

FPM: Do you often worry about the injury? It's something that's sort of out of your hands. How do you react and deal with that given how much you've been hurt in your career?

Tyson Gay: Frustrating. It's very frustrating. I don't want to have the story where I didn't reach my full potential because of injury. It's something that I focus on, becoming the best athlete and joining Team EAS to help with those injury issues.

FPM: Most of the famed sprinters in the past 30 years -- Usain Bolt, Maurice Greene, Carl Lewis -- are flashy on the track. And then you have you, just as fast without the bravado. What does that mean for your racing?{YSP:more}

Tyson Gay: It's real. It's just real. It's about hard work and that's the way it is for me. Why you don't see that other stuff is because I believe track is all I have and I want to dedicate my gift to track and field and work hard to reach my full potential. That's why I do this sport.

FPM: Does Usain Bolt do some of his on-track antics to psych out other competitors?

Tyson Gay: I'm not sure of his intentions. I know I'm focused on going one way down the track. You can play psychological games with some of the competitors because they really get into it and if he gets them separated from the race and distracts someone else, there's really nothing you can do about that. [Laughs]

FPM: Do you think you and Bolt will have a showdown before London?

Tyson Gay: I'm not for sure on that. I wouldn't mind it because I like competing in big meets and running against the best. By the time we get to March or April, that's when our schedule will be tightening up and we'll know if we will meet head-to-head [before the Olympics].

FPM: What's the bigger motivation: The thought of the glory of standing atop the medal podium, watching the American flag rise above all the others or the fear of not being there at all?

Tyson Gay: The fear. It's funny you say that. I was just talking to someone about that. They were saying, "When they're raising the flag, I'll be so happy, I'll cry." And they asked me whether I'll cry. And I don't think I will cry, because I know that I worked hard. It's not a shocker. I worked hard. So I expect to be victorious. I expect it to be tough. It will be a happy moment for me but also I have that fear of not making it because I tried so hard.

FPM: Maurice Greene did an interview with a British newspaper in which he said he didn't think an American would be on the medal stand in London. What are thoughts on that?

Tyson Gay: Maurice is just Maurice Greene. He's kind of just talking. In a subtle way he's trying to hype the Americans up. He's big on having heart. He believes a lot of Americans, not speaking of me, don't have a lot of heart or don't give it their best. HE believes in giving his best and laying it down every day. He's been around some of the Americans and seen some of them partying and doing this and that and he's just speaking from that reason.

FPM: Every couple years we hear of a football player challenging someone to a race. "I was fast in high school, I was fast in college so I can go out and beat Bolt and Gay, no problem." Chris Johnson of the Titans was someone who has said that in the recent past. So, on the NFL blog I write for, I always defend the sprinters, saying it's insane a football player could come off the street and beat world-class guys. Please explain the difference between the art of sprinting and other running.

Tyson Gay: It's totally different than any other sport. If you have baseball, basketball, football, it's all a matter of quick bursts and hopefully you don't get caught. Track and field is about reaction, power, drafting and the patience. It's a lot more art to sprinting than it is in football. You have to try to get to full speed as quick as possible but you have to have patience. Football is also about patience but lateral movement and things like that too. It's a different ball game when football players think they can step on the track and spike it up and run against a world-class sprinter.

FPM: If a really fast football player decided to come out, train for six weeks and run a 100 against you, how would they fare?

Tyson Gay: [Laughs] Their time or against a top sprinter?

FPM: I guess we both agree they'd get destroyed by a top sprinter. So what about the time? Let's say they're running you in the 100 in the same conditions and you post a 9.8 [his personal best is 9.69].

Tyson Gay: About 10 -- 10.3

FPM: What would you have played if you weren't a sprinter?

Tyson Gay: Probably baseball. Maybe a cornerback in football.

FPM: After watching those games on Monday night, some teams could have used you. Thanks, Tyson.

Tyson Gay: [Laughs] Thanks a lot, man.

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