After slow start, Gay surpasses Powell to win gold in 100 meters

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

OSAKA, Japan -- Tyson Gay is the world champion.

In a 100-meters final that delivered all it promised Sunday, Gay was slower out of the blocks. Once his legs got pumping, he caught and surged past Asafa Powell to claim his first gold medal at a major international championship in 9.85 seconds.

"After 60 meters I saw that I could catch him -- and it worked," the former Arkansas Razorback said. "I stayed relaxed and believed in my top speed even though I had a bad start."

Powell, sensing defeat, was passed by Derrick Atkins of the Bahamas at the tape in 9.91. Powell was third in 9.96, and even though he is co-holder of the world record at 9.77, admitted he ran scared.

"I panicked. I felt him coming on," Powell said. "That slowed me down ... I made a big mistake."

Gay, unbeaten this year coming into the championships, felt his composure beginning to slip Sunday morning. "I was wondering, 'Will people still respect me if I lose?"' he said. "I was wondering if anyone would still love me."

A call from his coach, Lance Brauman, who is nearing the end of a prison sentence for embezzlement, theft and mail fraud, calmed his nerves.

"This morning he called me around 11. He told me basically that he knows in the morning when he gets up that I'll be world champion," Gay said.

Some reassuring words from his mother, Daisy Gay Lowe, also helped.

"She talked to me and made me a believer. That's something I wasn't doing," he said.

Watched under a full moon by Japanese Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko and some 40,000 fans at the Nagai stadium, Gay pumped his arms, beat his chest and shouted in delight in the victory that ended weeks of nervous preparations.

Powell showed little emotion -- his sullen demeanor said it all.

Gay, regularly slower out of the blocks than Powell, had feared a false start, which would put him even more on edge. But the race went off smoothly. And with his head wobbling from side to side, Gay hit his groove.

But once he hits his stride, there is no stopping Gay. It is why he now is an overwhelming favorite to win the 200, too. With a bit of luck, he could also add a title in the 400 relays, where another battle with Powell looms.

"I'm just going to try to ice, get a massage, spend a little time with my family and really focus on the 200 now," Gay said. The 200 heats are set for Tuesday.

Both Gay and Powell were desperate to win their first global title Sunday and gain status as the favorite going into the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

"Next year I will get him," Powell vowed. "But for now, I am very disappointed."

Although the 100 was tough to predict, nothing was easier than picking Carolina Kluft for an unprecedented third straight heptathlon title. And the 24-year-old Swede did it with a European record, becoming the second best heptathlete of all time after American Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Kluft easily stretched her five-year unbeaten streak, earning 7,032 points to eclipse Russian Nikitina Larisa's 18-year-old European record by 25 points.

Immediately after setting the record, Kluft led all her competitors hand in hand around the stadium, the gesture as much the essence of Kluft as the outstanding performances.

In a tense shot put final, New Zealander Valerie Vili overtook defending champion Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus with her last attempt of 20.54 meters. Ostapchuk, who held the lead from the opening throw, had one attempt to go but was stranded just 6 centimeters short. Olympic silver medalist Nadine Kleinert of Germany took bronze with 19.77.

Misery came just as late to Bershawn Jackson, the defending champion in the 400 hurdles. The American was leading in his semifinal but stumbled on the last obstacle, totally lost his momentum and let two rivals pass. That result pushed him out of Tuesday's final. Olympic champion Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic led the way.

In the women's 100 second-round heats, Veronica Campbell of Jamaica cruised into the semifinals with a time of 11.08, hardly breaking a sweat in temperatures that soared into the high 80s late Sunday.

Her main rival, U.S. champion Torri Edwards, won her heat in 11.13, easing up at the finish. "I feel confident I can take this thing, the track is fast," she said. "It's hot, but sprinters like the hot weather."

Defending champion Lauryn Williams was second in her heat, advancing in 11.16.

Jefferson Perez became the first man to win three successive 20-kilometer walk titles, enough to make him a star in his native Ecuador. Together with the 1996 Olympic title, the 33-year old became a quadruple gold medalist at major competitions.

"I knew I could be the first with three consecutive golds but shortly after the start I forgot about this -- I needed to concentrate," he said. "One more medal is not that important."

Spain's Francisco Javier Fernandez was reinstated to silver in the walk after being disqualified for lifting over the final stretch to catch Tunisia's Hatem Ghoula.

In a sport notorious for its technical infractions, Fernandez had both feet off the ground as he raced past Ghoula. The jury of appeal ruled it was insufficient to merit a disqualification. Both racers were given the same time of 1 hour 22 minutes, 20 seconds.

The appeal cost Mexico's Eder Sanchez the bronze.

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