Tyson Gay making progress in recovery

After Tyson Gay finished his sixth and final 100-meter sprint on a warm and humid day, he walked to a nearby shaded bench and crashed.

He sat down for a few seconds, and then stretched out along the metal bleacher.

It was painful progress.

The former world champion is getting closer to a full recovery from a hip injury that cost him part of last year. He held an open workout Friday at the National Training Center, showing he’s healthy and ready to defend his 100-meter title at the U.S. Olympic trials in June.

”The trials are tough,” Gay said. ”I know all these guys are going to be gunning for me, gunning for that spot, gunning for glory. I want to defend my championship and get to London.”

Making the U.S. Olympic team is only one of his goals. For everything Gay has accomplished — he dominated the world championships in 2007 and posted the second-fastest time ever in the 100 meters in 2009 – he doesn’t have an Olympic medal. He was expected to challenge Jamaican star Usain Bolt in Beijing in 2008, but a severe hamstring injury slowed him down.

His hip injury last year was even worse.

The sprinter had surgery in July to repair a torn labrum. He spent seven weeks on crutches and then had some minor setbacks because of a degenerative pubic bone.

Even now, he’s still being cautious with his rehabilitation.

His trainer, Lance Brauman, is having Gay do part of his daily workouts on grass in hopes of easing the pressure on his hip and his 29-year-old body.

”I’m doing a lot of things different the older I get, just trying to be mature in that area, to understand I just can’t just pound and get up the next day and pound some more,” Gay said. ”I have to pick and choose my battles.”

He’s being equally choosy with his racing schedule.

Gay doesn’t have any races planned before the U.S. trials. Could he really just show up in Eugene, Ore., in June and have his first race be a qualifying heat?

”Yeah, that’s scary,” he said. ”But that’s my plan. I may try to get once race in then before then; I’m not sure. I plan on taking all the years of muscle memory and all the years of learning and put it together at the trials.”

Brauman believes Gay’s experience outweighs the need for any warm-up events.

”He has the ability to train at very high intensity,” Brauman said. ”So compared to most people, he might not need as many races. You’d prefer to have a couple of races before the trails. But at the end of the day, if his first race is at the Olympic trials, then he’ll be ready to run.”

Gay estimates he is only about 75 percent recovered.

It hardly showed during drills Friday.

After some auxiliary work on the track in the morning and a weight-training session after lunch, he took to the grass and the sunshine for the toughest part of his day. He ran six 100-meter sprints with only 15 seconds of downtime between sets of two, and then ran eight 40-meter sprints. He finished his nearly hour-long session with a 200-meter sprint.

Reporters and television cameras took note of every step.

”It’s refreshing,” he said. ”It can get hot, a little boring out here by yourself every day. ”It’s refreshing to know people haven’t forgot about you and they remind that you the Olympics are coming up and they want to see me succeed.”

No one wants that more than Gay, who would love to add an Olympic medal to his resume.

”I put some pressure on myself because I want to get it accomplished,” he said. ”That’s my goal. I want an Olympic medal, to come home with it. I’m never going to be satisfied, but I would be satisfied in that area with a medal.”

Preferably a gold one. And he’s well aware that Bolt stands in the way.

Gay has beaten Bolt before, so he knows it’s possible. And although he spent the last four years running in Bolt’s shadow, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

”I don’t think it’s bad timing,” Gay said. ”People say, `Dang, you would be the world-record holder and you would be this, you would be that.’ At the end of the day, if Bolt wasn’t here, I may not have ever thought about running 9.5 or 9.6. Running his times has helped me reach further goals of mine as well as dropping my time.

”I can’t say I’d be better without him. Financially? Media attention? Superstar status? Yeah, maybe. But I don’t really look for that. I just enjoy running.”