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Tyson Gay keeps sprinting in memory of 15-year-old daughter

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — She ran the 100m and 200m — just like dad. She was so fast and would’ve been a college standout. This he has no doubt.

That’s why Tyson Gay nearly walked away from racing. It was too painful with his daughter gone. So painful that when he trains he feels the stress in his back and can’t shake it off.

Only, she wouldn’t want him to quit. So he keeps sprinting in the memory of his 15-year-old daughter, Trinity , who was shot and killed in October outside a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky.

“It’s crushing and it never goes away. But you try to live with it,” said Gay , who competes in the first round of the 100m on Thursday night at the USATF Outdoor Championships. “You try to think about the good times.”

Like how she used to visit him in Florida for spring break or Thanksgiving. Or how they had the same teacher in high school and the teacher once playfully told Trinity how much better of a student she was than her father. Or how when he couldn’t spell a word, he would turn and ask her.

Out of habit, he still does that.

“I think about my daughter every day,” Gay said as he sat in a hotel lobby after a training session. “Every day.”

He didn’t hear the phone ring in the early morning hours on Oct. 16. His sister came downstairs and woke him up. Trinity was shot outside a Lexington restaurant after witnesses told police that gunfire was exchanged between two vehicles. She was hit by a stray round. There have been four charged in connection with her death.

“You’re upset you couldn’t be there to stop it,” Tyson Gay said. “It was just a group of honor students, going out to have a good time. And something like that happens? Crazy.

“I cried on the plane the whole way home. I was numb. I probably never cried that hard in my life.”

The tears keep flowing .

“The funeral, the wake, the burial, everything was unreal,” Gay said. “It’s been eight months and it still seems unreal. … I don’t think you ever have peace. I’ve learned to think about the good times, try to block that image of her death out of my mind.”

For the next month, it was hard for him to do much of anything, let alone return to track. After all, running was their thing.

Trinity was a sprinter at Lafayette High in Lexington and finished fourth in the 100m and fifth in the 200m at the state Class 3A high school track meet in May 2016. She also ran on a 4x200m relay team that finished fourth.

She never thought of herself as the daughter of Tyson Gay. She was Trinity Gay.

“I was so proud of her with that,” Gay said. “She was just a happy person. She was happy, loving and wanted to be herself. I never felt like she was in my shadow.”

He returned to training in late November more to “clear my mind and get out of the house,” he said. “You’re looking for closure every day and it doesn’t come. It’s just been tough in that sense.”

At 34, he’s not sure how many years he has left in the sprint game. This season for sure and then he will see how he feels.

Gay is the American record holder in the 100m (9.69 seconds) and he competed in the last three Summer Olympics. He was part of a team that won a silver medal in the 4x100m relay at the 2012 London Games, though that medal was ultimately stripped after Gay tested positive for steroids in 2013.

“I’ve been through every major upset and every major stresser that life can give you,” Gay said. “It’s very hard emotionally. It would’ve been easy for me to quit (track). I’m still fighting.”

She would’ve wanted him to keep running. She had a front row seat at some of his biggest meets.

“Track is something she loved. It’s something I loved,” Gay said. “I had a college coach tell me a year ago, ‘Hey man, we need your daughter to run for us.’ I told her about it and she got tickled. She thought it was so cool. That made me so proud.”

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Chloe Kim, Adam Rippon, Rachael Denhollander among Time 100

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PyeongChang medalists Chloe Kim and Adam Rippon were among four Olympians named to the 2018 Time 100, along with former gymnast Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse.

The other Olympians were Kevin Durant and Roger Federer on the most influential people list. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt also made it.

Kim made the list as a pioneer. Award-winning chef David Chang, a second-generation Korean American and special correspondent for NBC at the PyeongChang Olympics, wrote an essay about watching the snowboarder take halfpipe gold.

“I felt two things simultaneously: incredibly happy for her — I made her a celebratory churro ice cream sandwich, which I think she called “bomb” — but also sad, because the whole world was about to descend on this now 17-year-old girl,” he wrote. “Asian-­American fans further piled on their hopes that she would shatter Asian stereotypes on her way to the podium. And to top it all off, she was competing in her parents’ birth country, one that is notoriously judgmental of its diaspora.

“And you know what? She crushed it. Blew us all out of the water. Now the best thing Chloe Kim can do is be Chloe Kim. That’s not being selfish—that’s letting people know they don’t have to be anything that anyone says they should be.”

Cher wrote the Time essay for Rippon, the first openly gay figure skater to compete for a U.S. Olympic team.

“Adam is a skater who happens to be gay, and that represents something wonderful to young people,” she wrote. “When I was young, I had no role models—everyone looked like Sandra Dee and Doris Day. There was nobody who made me think, Oh, I could be like them. They represent me. Adam shows people that if you put blood, sweat and tears into what you’re doing, you can achieve something that’s special. You can be special. And I think that’s very brave.”

Like Rippon, the gymnast Denhollander made the Time 100 in the icon category. Olympic champion gymnast Aly Raisman, also a Nassar survivor, penned an essay.

“Rachael was there for each court session of that sentencing, each impact statement and each fellow survivor,” Raisman wrote. “This show of courage and conviction inspired many people to feel less like victims and more like survivors. We still have a long way to go before we achieve all the change that is so desperately needed, and I am grateful to be fighting alongside Rachael, my sister survivor!”

Here are Olympians and Paralympians on past Time 100 lists, counting only athletes who had competed in the Games before being listed:

2017 — Simone Biles, LeBron James, Neymar
2016 — Usain BoltCaitlyn JennerKatie LedeckySania MirzaRonda Rousey
2015 — Abby Wambach
2014 — Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams
2013 — LeBron James, Li Na, Lindsey Vonn
2012 — Novak DjokovicLionel MessiOscar Pistorius
2011 — Lionel Messi
2010 — Yuna KimSerena Williams
2009 — Rafael Nadal
2008 — Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius
2007 — Roger FedererChien Ming-Wang
2006 — Joey Cheek, Steve Nash
2005 — LeBron James
2004 — Lance Armstrong, Paula Radcliffe, Yao Ming
2000 (20th Century) — Muhammad Ali

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McKayla Maroney: I would have starved at Olympics without Larry Nassar

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McKayla Maroney said she thought she “would have starved at the Olympics” in 2012 if Larry Nassar didn’t bring her food.

“Your coaches are just always watching you and wanting to keep you skinny,” Maroney said in an interview with Savannah Guthrie that will air in full on an hourlong “Dateline” special Sunday at 7 p.m. ET. “There’s just other things about the culture that are also messed up that he used against us.”

Past U.S. national team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi also gave interviews for the Dateline special “Silent No More.”

Maroney laughed when she said Nassar bought her a loaf of bread.

Her comments were shown on TODAY on Thursday, less than a day after her 2012 Olympic champion teammate Jordyn Wieber testified at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing to discuss the roles of national governing bodies — like USA Gymnastics — in protecting athletes following the Nassar case.

“We couldn’t smile or laugh in training,” Wieber said at the hearing. “We were even afraid to eat too much in front of our coaches, who were pressured to keep us thin.”

Maroney, Wieber and other U.S. national team gymnasts had personal coaches and convened multiple times per year at the Karolyi ranch in Texas for national team camps. Wieber’s personal coach, John Geddert, was the 2012 Olympic team coach.

Geddert was suspended by USA Gymnastics in January and is facing a criminal investigation after Nassar, who molested girls at Geddert’s gym in Michigan, was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison on Jan. 24. Geddert said he had “zero knowledge” of Nassar’s crimes.

“Our athletes, like McKayla, are the heart and soul of USA Gymnastics, and every effort has been made to support our athletes’ development and provide the opportunities for them to achieve their dreams.” USA Gymnastics said in a statement to NBC News.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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