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Gay six weeks behind in training

CARSON, Calif. -- A knee injury cost sprinter Tyson Gay six weeks of training at the beginning of the year, and with the 2009 season starting soon, the American record-holder still hasn't set his schedule.

He is aiming to be 100 percent for world championships in August, which could be his next chance to line up with three-time Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder Usain Bolt.

Gay said he hurt his left knee while training last November, trying to get in shape after a disappointing Beijing Olympics in which he didn't win a medal and didn't even make the finals in his signature event, the 100 meters.

"The first week of training, I think I was going too hard," Gay said this week during a promotional event for his sponsor, adidas. "I felt good the first week. We were doing great and I was going hard. But probably too hard for the first week. It was just a mistake I made knowing it was a big year, trying to step it up when I just should have relaxed and eased into it."

The injury means it will be at least a few more months before he's completely healthy -- and that will mark the first time since he was in the starting blocks of the Olympic trials in the 200 prelims. As he entered the first turn, he sprawled to the track, victim of a hamstring injury that essentially ruined his season.

"I didn't think it was going to be that bad because the initial pull really, really hurt, but the next day it felt better," Gay said. "But a little later, when we got a second opinion, I noticed a little bit of the tendon was torn, as well. That's what made the process take so long."

But Gay kept pressing on, knowing he wasn't in race shape by the time he reached the Olympics but not wanting to bow out of what was supposed to be a history-making race between three men -- himself, Bolt and Jamaica's Asafa Powell.

Gay didn't make it out of the semis. He felt his hamstring tighten as he was getting ready for the race, "and I thought I could fight through it but I couldn't." The final ended up being between Bolt and Powell -- but not even really that. Bolt hot-dogged his way to a world-record time of 9.69 seconds.

"I was in the stadium, but I didn't watch it," Gay said. "I watched on the big screen in the back room. I took it all in and was amazed and started preparing myself mentally to say, I've got to get on top of my game."

First, though, there was one more disappointment. The dropped baton in the relay.

Gay told American coaches he had always been more comfortable running the third leg of relays, receiving the handoff with his right hand. But they put him on the anchor leg and when he couldn't grab Darvis Patton's handoff with his left hand, Gay had to deal with the unbelievable: The 2007 world champion in the 100 and 200 would leave Beijing without a medal.

"The 100 was a shock, but I thought, I've still got a chance to win a medal, so let's focus on that," Gay said. "Then that happened. I couldn't run in the [1,600] and I'm sitting there and it's like, gosh, I can't believe this is over."

Because he's the defending world champion in the 100 and 200, he has an automatic spot at worlds this year, meaning he won't have to race at nationals in June. But he said he should be ready for that and will probably race in the 100 "just because I don't want to see anybody take my record away there."

He set the mark, a 9.77, in the semifinals at Olympic trials last year and then bettered himself with a wind-aided 9.68 in the finals. Even though the time didn't count as a record, it was an impressive mark -- only the second sub-9.7 ever run in any conditions.

As it turned out, it was the last great race Gay has run, the last time he could even be in the conversation for "World's Fastest Man" -- a title that undisputedly belongs to Bolt now.

Could it change? Gay is pointing to worlds.

"I believe so," he said. "Hopefully. That's where I want to be my best. That's where he's going to be his best. I'm looking forward to it."