After he was edged out by fellow American Justin Gatlin in the finals of the 100-meter dash, Tyson Gay not only saw his hopes of an Olympic gold in the event vanish, but his hopes of any medal at all.
Despite being one of only three men in the world to beat gold medalist Usain Bolt in the 100, Gay was not able to top Bolt and finished third in a cluster of three that included Gay, Gatlin and Jamaican Yohan Blake.
Bolt finished with with a time of 9.63 seconds, the second-fastest time ever recorded in the 100, while Blake won the silver at 9.75 and Gatlin earned the bronze at 9.79.
Gay finished in 9.80.
A hundredth of a second separated Gay from Olympic glory.
While the disappointment of not earning a medal is probably still very upsetting, Gay is not out of contention yet. Despite his excellence in the 200, he won't be competing in the event, but he will be taking part in the men's 4x100-meter relay, and with something to prove.
Four years ago, for the fourth time since the event was introduced in 1912 (not counting the boycotted games of 1980) the U.S. men failed to medal in the 4x100 relay. Three of those times were because of disqualifications. In this rendition, it was the exchange between Gay and teammate Darvis Patton that proved to be fatal to their efforts.
Gay took the blame for the epic mistake, and he was quoted in a USA Today story following the race saying:
"It was probably my fault," said Gay, the 2007 world champion in the 100 and 200, who failed to advance beyond the 100 semifinals in his first meet since a July 5 hamstring injury at the U.S. trials. "Some people say that when it hits the hand, you should have it. I'm a veteran. I've run all kinds of relays. I've never dropped a baton in my life. It's kind of upsetting. I can't believe it."
Athletes don't forget that kind of embarrassment, especially those who only get to showcase their abilities for about a grand total of 20 seconds every four years.
The U.S. has only failed to win gold in the event seven times. The previously mentioned four in 1912, 1960, 1988 and 2008 squads who failed to medal; two silvers in 2004 and 1996; and the boycotted games in 1980. However, the U.S. hasn't won the gold since 2000, when the victory was marred by the post-race celebration of the American squad.
Gay has the opportunity to bring them back to glory and win gold in the event for 16th time as he, and teammates Gatlin, Trell Kimmons and Ryan Bailey try to erase the scornful memory of the 2000 gold medalists.
While they will obviously have to contend with the 2008 gold-medal-winning and world-record-holding Jamaican squad, the U.S. should have a good chance to win, as long as they hold on to the baton.
Gay has come too far to go home empty-handed, and I fully expect him to avenge both his recent failure in the 100 finals and the disqualification of four years ago when all is said and done.