EUGENE, Oregon (AP) — Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay could have the best chance of chasing down Usain Bolt at the London Games after showing they’re rounding into top form in the 100-meter final of the U.S. Olympic trials.
Gatlin won in 9.80 seconds Sunday and Gay was second — 0.06 seconds behind.
“These two can really encourage each other and motivate each other to take on that other little island out there who’s been dominating America,” said former hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah, who represents Gatlin.
Their comebacks far from complete, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay are on the right path. For Gatlin, it’s a journey back from a doping past, while for Gay, it’s a march toward full recovery after hip surgery nearly a year ago.
With their performances, Gatlin and Gay might have put Bolt and his Jamaican teammates on notice — or so they hope.
“I think he (Bolt) is a great talent and a great runner. I’m just glad to be back and in my top form,”Gatlin said.
Gay, the American record holder, showed no ill effects of his surgically repaired right hip as he flew down the track, not a trace of a limp in his step.
He was headed to London when a year ago that very notion looked improbable.
“Bittersweet. I always like to win. I came in second,” Gay said. “But at the end of the day, it was about making the team. I got to make sure I turn this little bit of a frown into a happy face. For me to start training in March and make the team is a beautiful accomplishment.”
Also joining Gatlin and Gay in London will be 23-year-old Ryan Bailey, who edged Mike Rodgers, Doc Patton and Walter Dix, the Olympic bronze medalist in Beijing.
Dix pulled up in the semifinals with a left hamstring injury and wasn’t the same in the final. He’s hoping to be ready for the 200 this week.
“Things like this happen. I really can’t say much about it,” Dix said.
The last time Gatlin was at the Olympics trials — eight years ago — he was a youngster about ready to become the next big thing in sprinting. He won gold at the 2004 Athens Games and a world title the following year, before his fall from grace.
He tested positive for excessive testosterone in 2006, leading to a four-year ban that prevented him from defending his title in Beijing.
Now 30, he’s attempting to repair his tarnished image.
“Usually, I have a lot of words. I’m almost speechless,” Gatlin said. “Everything just feels so surreal. I just let the heart really go out and do what it had to do.
“I wasn’t too hyped, wasn’t too calm. It felt just right and went out there and gave it my all. I have a lot more left in the tank.”
As expected, LaShawn Merritt won the 400, while Sanya Richards-Ross claimed the women’s race.
Noticeably missing from the 400 team was Jeremy Wariner, the silver medalist in Beijing and 2004 Olympic gold medal winner. He finished a distant sixth and won’t be going to London, unless it’s as a member of the relay team.
Wariner trudged off the track with his hands on his hips, refusing to stop and talk.
In other finals, Olympic silver medalist and American record holder Jenn Suhr won the pole vault.
Following the men’s 100, USA Track and Field announced how the third-place tie between training partners Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh in the women’s 100 will be decided.
The scenarios involve either a coin toss or a runoff to determine the third and final spot on the team for the London Games.
If both athletes choose the same option, it will determine the tiebreaker. If the athletes disagree, the tiebreaker will be a runoff. If both athletes decline a preference, the tiebreaker will be a coin toss.
The coach for both sprinters told The Associated Press they won’t make any kind of decision until after they complete the 200 later this week. The final is Saturday.
Felix and Tarmoh finished in a dead heat for the last U.S. spot in the 100 to London, each leaning across the finish line in 11.068 seconds Saturday. One of them will join Carmelita Jeter and Tianna Madison, who are already on the team.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.