It is the most anticipated 100m race so far this season, and Usain Bolt is nowhere to be found.
Tyson Gay will compete for the first time since the end of his one-year doping suspension at a Diamond League meet in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday. He will do so against Justin Gatlin, the World Championships silver medalist who is undefeated this season.
Gay is the fastest American of all time, and Gatlin is tied as the second fastest with a stated of goal of taking Gay’s American record.
Never were Gay and Gatlin closer on the track than at the London Olympics. In the 4x100m relay final, Gatlin passed the baton and the lead to Gay for the third leg. That edge evaporated on Gay’s turn, wiped by Yohan Blake, who handed off to anchor Usain Bolt for a victory in world-record fashion.
The U.S. earned an appreciated silver, equaling the previous world record. Gay, who would have been a 2008 Olympic podium favorite if not for injury, felt particularly fulfilled to hold his first medal.
“That’s the part of my heart that was missing,” Gay said two years ago. “I think I finally filled it.”
But Gay gave up that silver medal to the U.S. Olympic Committee because it was won after he began taking performance-enhancing drugs. The rest of the U.S. relay team may be stripped of theirs as well. That includes Gatlin, who has four other Olympic medals to soften the blow.
Gatlin himself likely ceded more Olympic glory due to doping. He was banned four years from 2006 to 2010.
“There’s still a lot of pressure on [Gay] coming back,” Gatlin told the BBC in June. “People have more questions than answers — why his time [suspended] has been so short.”
Gay and Gatlin may not be the biggest story to come out of the meet, whose coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on Universal Sports and UniversalSports.com. Here are the start lists. Here are five events to watch:
Men’s 400m — 2:03 p.m. ET
LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James renew their rivalry. They clocked identical 43.97s at the Prefontaine Classic on May 31 with James outleaning Merritt for the win to take a 6-5 edge in their career duels.
They’re the only men to go sub-44 this year, or any of the last five years for that matter.
Men’s high jump — 2:25
The world record is in jeopardy again. Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov, World champion Bohdan Bondarenko and Olympic and World medalist Mutaz Barshim have all cleared 2.41m or higher this year. The world record from 1993 is 2.45m.
Bondarenko and Barshim took a combined five attempts at breaking the world record at the last Diamond League meet in New York but failed on every one at 2.46m.
Women’s 100m — 2:28
American Tori Bowie, the new sensation of the sprint season, was still on the start list 27 hours before the scheduled race despite appearing to suffer a leg injury at the U.S. Championships. Bowie, almost exclusively a long jumper until March, hurt herself on a 10.91-second semifinal and pulled out of the final Friday. That was the fastest time of the meet and Bowie’s first time clocking sub-11.
Bowie, the world leader in the 200m, is set to face the only two women faster than her in the 100m this year — Trinidad and Tobago’s Michelle-Lee Ahye (10.85) and Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.86).
UPDATE: Campbell-Brown pulled out of the meet Wednesday due to a sore hamstring, according to her Twitter.
Men’s 100m — 2:58
Gatlin must be considered the favorite over Gay since there’s no telling what kind of form Gay is in. Though Gatlin is undefeated in 2014, he is not the fastest man this year. That’s Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson, who has run 9.82 to Gatlin’s 9.86 but is not in the Lausanne field.
The best from the rest is Mike Rodgers, who won the U.S. Championship last week (Gatlin and Gay were not in that field).
Men’s 200m — 3:43
Jamaican Yohan Blake would have added sizzle to the 100m, but as is the norm the world’s best sprinters are split up. Blake is coming off an awful 10.21 in the 100m in New York on June 14, when he stumbled out of the blocks in his Diamond League season debut.
This will mark his first Diamond League 200m in nearly two years, given Blake missed almost all of last season with a hamstring injury. His top competition will be Jamaican 100m champion Nickel Ashmeade and 2009 World silver medalist Alonso Edward.