Tyson Gay makes one last Olympic run after being stripped of medal

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) – Tyson Gay has a new coach and a longer beard to go with a new attitude: He doesn’t really care what people think about him.

Behind that tough exterior, though, masks the pain of having to hand back his only Olympic medal. A doping violation cost him and all his relay teammates the silver medal from the 2012 London Games.

A career full of missed chances, close calls, untimely injuries and that stripped-away medal is nearing its end. The man who used to be considered the biggest threat to Usain Bolt is now often viewed as a bit player in the sprint game. Fine with him, the American 100-meter record holder insists. He’s making one last run at the Olympics, doing it for himself, his family, his fans and nobody else.

“This could restore things for me in my heart,” Gay said on the eve of the preliminaries of 100 meters at the Olympic trials. “I lost something when I gave that medal back. The people closest to me, they know how bad I want that medal. Anyone on the outside? I don’t really care.”

For the first time in quite a while, the 33-year-old Gay has no aches or pains. Well, maybe a little knee soreness, but that’s about it, as he tries to earn an Olympic spot in the 100 and 200. Since becoming the American record holder in 2009, Gay’s body has betrayed him. He’s gone through groin and hip surgeries over the years to keep him on the track.

He fully believes he can keep up with the likes of Justin Gatlin, who is a few months older than him, and Trayvon Bromell, the up-and-comer in the field.

“I’m considered the old one,” Gay said. “I’m going to go out there and give it my best, let it all hang.”

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He’s accepted that his past doping problem will now be part of the permanent record. Gay received a one-year ban in 2013 for testing positive for a steroid precursor DHEA – a penalty that was reduced because he provided information that led to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case against his former coach, Jon Drummond.

“The key thing to that is putting the past in the past and showing people you can always persevere, especially when you make mistakes in life,” said Gay, who is the second-fastest man in history, thanks to his 9.69-second 100 at a 2009 meet in Shanghai (Bolt’s world record is 9.58 and Yohan Blake tied Gay’s mark in 2012). “I don’t get a lot of hate mail, or any of that type of thing. (Fans) allow me to forget about it for the most part.”

Bolt called him out, though, intimating Gay should’ve been suspended for life. Although Gatlin has a doping past as well, Bolt has been harsher toward Gay, possibly because he was Bolt’s biggest rival for so many years.

Doesn’t bother Gay.

“USADA did their investigation and understood everything wasn’t intentional,” Gay said. “But (Bolt) is entitled to his own opinion. I’m moving forward, man. Just continue to do what I do, not worry about what no one else says.”

He’s reached out to Drummond, with the two sharing a text over a family matter. Drummond, the former track star and longtime coach, got hit with an eight-year doping ban after arbitrators found a series of discussions concluded with Drummond convincing Gay to take the banned substance, and carrying it to Europe for him.

“People are in situations and do certain things,” said Gay, who has a son who is almost 2 and a teenage daughter. “At the end of the day, I can’t sit here and hold a grudge and beat myself up. That’s all I would do, if I didn’t let go.”

These days, Gay is working with longtime coach John Smith, who partnered with him about a year and a half ago. The two are smoothing out his starts, which have sometimes stood in Gay’s way. They’ve recently discovered something, Smith said.

“On Tuesday, his first start at practice and I’m like, ‘Where did that come from?'” Smith recounted. “He got better and better and better. He’s a gamer. He knows how to go for it. That’s what I love about him.

“He’s older. He’s injury-free. He’s been scarred up for the last four years, coupled with all the other publicity he had that I don’t have to expound on. This is motivational for him, to go out and prove to himself and to the rest of the public … he’s still here.”

Indeed, Gay still is.

“It’s been a rough three years,” Gay said. “But I would say I’m almost at peace. After I make this team, then I’ll be all the way there.”

MORE: Ten men’s events to watch at Olympic Trials

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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