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Hail the Reigning Speed King

He can’t outrun fame. Just recently, Gay and his 6-year-old daughter were at the Disney Store in their hometown of Lexington, Ky., when they were accosted by a couple
of toughs—okay, the kids were, like, 7—who demanded he sign their shirts. It was a little scary, even for a guy who’s always at his best when the pressure is on. “I was afraid I’d ruin their good shirts,” says Gay, who signed anyway. The humble sprinter might as well get used to such dilemmas.
At age 25, he’s coming off a dominating year, capped by world titles in the 100 meters, in which he crushed record-holder Asafa Powell; the 200m, his specialty; and the 4 x 100m relay.

Add it up and Gay is primed to shine in Beijing next summer, while the U.S. team—which also boasts elite sprinters Walter Dix and Jeremy Wariner—seems poised to load up on Olympic medals. And if the “Test Me I’m Clean” bracelets that several Americans donned at the world championships are any indication, they wouldn’t mind ridding track and field of its doping stigma, too. Gay knows that the Games, with an audience of billions, could be a turning point. “It’s a big opportunity for the sport,” he says. “And if I win gold, it’s a chance to be the face of track and field.” Something tells us more signature moments are on the way.