EUGENE, Ore. – Veteran sprinter Tyson Gay promises to show teen sensation Trayvon Bromell the ropes.
“After next year,” Gay said with a big smile.
Gay, 32, has his sights on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games before he even thinks of handing over the reins to the 19-year-old he calls “the future.”
The American record holder won his fourth official national title in the 100-meter Friday night, running down Bromell, the Baylor sophomore who won an NCAA title as a freshman and was runner-up two weeks ago on the same Hayward Field track.
“Man, that kid is tough,” said Gay, who was stripped of the 2013 crown because of a positive doping test. “To only be a sophomore and to make the team and handle that pressure.
“He got out good. It was one of those 10-years-of-experience, dig-down moments. I had to get him.”
Gay won in 9.87 seconds with Bromell next at 9.96 and Mike Rodgers, the defending national champion, clocking 9.97 for third. Justin Gatlin, who earned a bye into the world championships by virtue of his 2014 Diamond League title, will be the fourth U.S. competitor in the 100 in Beijing in August. Gatlin skipped the 100 here but will run the 200.
Barring injury, Gay will compete in his first world championships since 2009. He won three gold medals at the 2007 worlds, captured the silver medal in 2009 in the 100 behind Usain Bolt of Jamaica, was injured before the 2011 edition and withdrew from the 2013 team because of the doping case.
“This win right here may be the most important win (ever),” said Gay. “I feel like it was the toughest. Back in 2008 and some of the other times when I ran the trials, my competitors weren’t running as fast. The competition wasn’t as stiff during the rounds. People are just getting faster and I have to adapt to that.”
Bromell is the first male teenager to make the world championships 100-meter team. He’s also the first to make a U.S. team as a teenager since Auburn’s Stanley Floyd qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team.
“Birthday in two weeks!” said Bromell, who will turn 20 on July 10. “To be able to go to Beijing for the first time and represent with the big dogs, now I’ve just got to get back home and recover and come back and run.”
Gay said he initially didn’t want to take a victory lap because he was tired, but decided that would be selfish of him.
He was justly rewarded. “Doing the victory lap may have been the most exciting thing I’ve done,” he said. “I got a teddy bear, I got a book, I got high-fives. A lot of people just said, ‘Welcome back, we’re so glad to have you back.’ It meant a lot to me.”
It was Gay’s first time running rounds — the heats on Thursday and semifinals and the final on Friday — since coming back from the doping suspension. In the wind-aided semis, Bromell ran 9.76 and Gay ran 9.79.
Gay has repeatedly apologized for testing positive by unknowingly taking a banned substance.
“I’m human; you make mistakes,” he said. “It’s about getting the opportunity again to make up for those mistakes that you made.”
Since his comeback, Gay has switched coaches, from Lance Brauman to John Smith, and moved from Florida to California. Gay said that Brauman is an adidas coach and he now runs for Nike, so it would have been a conflict of interest for him to stay.
However, Gay has had to get used to a new environment and training methods.
“It hasn’t been easy,” he said.
Bromell has had a lot of breaks — and not in a good way. He has broken both his knees and a hip and credits his strong faith for his ability to overcome the injuries.
“I say my 8th grade (injury) was just me being dumb, doing backflips and stuff and trying to do a flip over my friend, and I broke my knee,” he said. “In 9th grade I was in a basketball tournament and I was going up for a layup. A kid hit me in my knee and it kind of moved.
“My 10th grade year, I was just running the 100 and out of nowhere, my hip just broke. We still don’t know to this day why that happened. I wasn’t running that fast. I came up on my drive phase and I know I was in Lane 5 and then I was in the grass.”
Bromell had his breakout year as a senior year in high school. He said he hasn’t decided if he will turn pro or stay in college.
“I’m taking everything slow,” he said. “Right now I’m just having fun and ready for Beijing.”
At 5-foot-9, he could find himself in a lane next to the 6-5 Bolt.
“I have raced competitors that have been two times taller than me,” Bromell said, “and that hasn’t stopped me.”
Karen Rosen is an Atlanta-based sportswriter who has covered 14 Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2009.