ARI SHAPIRO, host:
And now a world record that wasn't. Runners in Eugene, Oregon raced to qualify for the Olympics this weekend, and one of them, Tyson Gay, made the best time ever in the men's 100-meter dash. NPR's Tom Goldman explains why the rules say that was not actually a record-setting performance.
TOM GOLDMAN: As Tyson Gay took a victory lap yesterday, the king of speed waving an American flag, it was hard to fathom that his blunder almost was the story of the trial's first weekend.
In the first of four rounds of 100-meter races, Gay was cruising to victory when he eased up and almost didn't finish high enough to advance. His coach, John Drummond, took him aside and told him champions don't do that. Next time you step on the track, see the line, look at it, run to it. Point taken.
(Soundbite of starter pistol)
(Soundbite of Applause)
Unidentified Announcer: It's Tyson Gay in the middle of the track, (unintelligible) in the orange, Tyson Gay.
GOLDMAN: Late yesterday in the 100-meter final, Gay ran to that line with incredible speed. When his time flashed on the big screen at Hayward Field, many in the crowd wondered - am I seeing that right?
They were seeing 9.68, but then the track announcer broke the spell.
Unidentified Announcer: We don't want to burst your bubble, but look at the wind reading: 4.1 meters per second. So not a world record, but under any conditions, the fastest 100 meters ever run by a human being.
GOLDMAN: Not a bad entry on your resume if you're a sprinter. But after the race, sitting next to second and third-place finishers Walter Dix and Darvis Patton, Gay sounded matter-of-fact about that fastest-ever thing.
Mr. TYSON GAY (Olympic Runner): I was happy with the time. That's the time that John Drummond actually has been instilling in me, you know, in practice and stuff, saying that I'm capable of running 9.60. Regardless of the wind conditions, I was still satisfied.
GOLDMAN: Gay's dominating performance this weekend also featured a legal 9.77 in a preliminary round on Saturday. That's an American record, just five-hundredths of a second slower than the world record, set by Jamaica's Usain Bolt a month ago. Darvis Patton was asked if the blazing results in Eugene will fuel a rivalry between Jamaica and the U.S.
Mr. DARVIS PATTON (Olympic Runner): Well, I wouldn't call it a rivalry right now, but I think it's going to shake the world up a little bit. You know, you've got three, four, five guys running nines this track meet, so it'll make a little noise.
GOLDMAN: Actually, six of the eight sprinters in the final ran under 10 seconds. That's a lot of speedy guys not making the Olympic team, but that's what makes the track-and-field trials so bittersweet. The top three finishers qualify, meaning a lot of the time, you'll hear something interesting from number four, like the 23-year-old who'd been tearing it up in the early rounds of the women's 100-meters. In the final, Marshavet Hooker missed a spot on the Olympic team by three-hundredths of a second and then offered a small nugget of life philosophy.
Ms. MARSHAVET HOOKER (Runner): It sucks, but it's a learning experience. You live, you learn, you keep running.
GOLDMAN: Those who qualified for Beijing were happy, relieved, excited. Candor points went to Christian Cantwell. The second-place finisher in the men's shot-put is Beijing bound, but he probably won't be featured in any soft-focus TV montages about the glory of the Olympic trials.
Mr. CHRISTIAN CANTWELL (Olympic Shot-putter): This was just a plane ticket -was all this offered. I mean, now the fun begins.
GOLDMAN: Maybe for Cantwell, but for hundreds of others who are still aspiring Olympians, Eugene is the center of hope, triumph, anxiety, despair for another week. Tom Goldman, NPR News.
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