The signature event of the championships, and indeed of any international sporting event, was held today as Tyson Gay squared off against Asafa Powell for the title of world's fastest man. The moniker is bestowed upon the winner of the 100 meter dash at the world championships and Olympic games. Powell is the current world record holder, Gay is the current American champion, which in and of itself carries a weight of responsibility. The Americans have basically dominated the sprint events at major competitions. Sure an odd Canadian, Brit or Jamaican have managed to be crowned world's fastest man, but, for the most part, the title has rested firmly in land of the free and the home of the brave. The Americans are fully aware of this dominance and their sprinters have tended embody the selfish, chauvinist, and self centered view that most sprinters are justifiably labeled with.
That is why the victory by Gay today is all the more refreshing. Gay is stoic. He is quiet and reserved to a fault - certainly there have been few laconic 100m champions. The typical champion is boisterous, outspoken, flashy and cocky beyond measure. It comes with the territory. Tyson Gay blasted by Asafa Powell and the other 7 competitors in the field as though they were not fit to be on the same track. Unlike American sprinters of the past, Gay did not immediately calling for everyone to praise him, or for Nike to retrofit his bust in the Hall of millionaires. Rather I watched as he grabbed the American flag and trotted around Nagai Stadium for his victory lap. Absent was the tongue pointing of Maurice Greene, the arrogant smile of Carl Lewis or the hair comb days of John Drummond. Gay was genuinely happy. He bowed, japanese style to a number of the spectators. He was sincerely surprised at winning. This was not the walk of someone who demands attention but rather of someone who is thankful for his abilities.
Fame may ruin him from now until next September in Beijing, but for this moment, consider me a big Tyson Gay fan!!!