No record, but Gay's 100 is fastest ever

EUGENE, Ore. - Tyson Gay was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever had.

But his time of 9.68 seconds at the Olympic Trials yesterday doesn't count as a world record, because it was run with the help of a tailwind. What does count is that Gay qualified for his first Olympic Games and served notice he's someone to watch in Beijing.

"It means a lot to me," said Gay, 25. "I'm glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me."

Wearing a royal blue uniform with red and white diagonal stripes across the front along with matching shoes, all in a tribute to 1936 Olympic star Jesse Owens, Gay started well and pulled out to a comfortable lead by the 40-meter mark.

This time, he kept pumping his legs all the way through the finish line. In Saturday's opening heat, Gay had pulled way up, way too soon, and nearly was caught by the field before accelerating and lunging in for fourth place.

No such close call this time.

No one ever has covered 100 meters more quickly. The previous fastest time under any conditions was 9.69, run in 1996 by Obadele Thompson, who now is married to Marion Jones.

Gay's race came with the wind blowing at 4.1 meters per second; anything above 2.0 is not allowed for record purposes.

"I didn't really care what the wind was," Gay said.

Walter Dix, the 2007 NCAA champion from Florida State, overtook Darvis Patton in the final 20 meters for second place. Dix clocked 9.80 and Patton 9.84, as each of the first six finalists turned in times under 10 seconds.

The pending world record is 9.72 seconds, set by Jamaica's Usain Bolt on May 31 in New York, with Gay a distant second. That race sent Gay and his coach, Jon Drummond, to work, tinkering with the runner's start and style.

Drummond noticed Gay was bringing his feet too high behind his back with each stride, and they worked to correct that.

After misjudging the finish in his opening heat Saturday, Gay ran 9.77 in a quarterfinal a few hours later, breaking the American record which had stood since 1999.

Gay was considered a lock to make the U.S. team, and so was long jumper Dwight Phillips, the 2004 Olympic champion. But he flopped yesterday, winding up fourth by less than 1 inch. Only the top three finishers in each event earn Olympic berths, and that's Trevell Quinley, Brian Johnson and Miguel Pate.

In other finals, Bershawn Jackson won the men's 400 hurdles, and Tiffany Ross-Williams the women's event; Shani Marks won the women's triple jump; Aretha Thurmond won the women's discus; and Derek Miles won the men's pole vault where 40-year-old Jeff Hartwig and U.S. record-holder Brad Walker also qualified. *