USA sprinter ready for Olympics

DALIAN, China " American sprinter Tyson Gay says his hamstring is feeling better and he'll be healthy and ready to go when the Olympic 100-meter races start next week.

"When I step on the line in Beijing, don't worry. I'll be ready to go," Gay said Monday before departing for China from Munich, where he had been training.

He has decided to fly to Beijing and skip going to the U.S. Track team's training camp in Dalian because he wants be at Friday's opening ceremonies. Qualifying in the highly anticipated 100-meter dash starts Aug. 15.

Gay, the defending world champion in the 100 and 200 meters, hurt his hamstring early last month at U.S. Olympic trials while running in preliminary heats in the 200 meters. He already had qualified for the 100. He pulled out of a race in London on July 25, saying he wanted to rest to ensure he was healthy for the Olympics.

In the 100, Gay is expected to contend along with world-record holder Usain Bolt and the man Bolt took the record from, fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell.

A statement released by Gay's manager said he has been on a gradual return to high-level training, that he was joined in Munich by his coach Jon Drummond on July 22 and that since July 11 he has been undergoing treatment from an orthopedic specialist in Munich.

At past Olympics, all potential members of the 400-meter relay team have been asked to report to the U.S. training camp to work out and practice passing the baton. USA Track has said Gay, expected to be part of that team, will not be required to come.


LOOKING GOOD: Dee Dee Trotter is a loyal customer at her nail shop in Knoxville, Tenn. Last time she went, though, she told them "the usual" wasn't going to cut it.

The result wasn't too surprising: Red, white and blue nails, done up especially for the Olympics.

"He went right to the internet and he says, 'Wadda you think about this?"' the 2007 U.S. 400-meter champion said, as she held up her hands to show off the new look. "And I'm like, 'Let's do this!' He comes up with these awesome nails and I'm like, 'Hello!"'

Although the nails were fun, Trotter's knee has been a more serious issue this summer. Shortly before last month's Olympic trials, a car door slammed up against her leg and caused a bone chip around her knee. She'll need surgery when the games are over.

In consecutive races after the injury, she barely broke 54 seconds, about two seconds too slow to be competitive. But she recovered well enough to place third at trials and earn the final spot in the Olympics.

"Placing third meant more to me than winning the year before because of what I had to overcome," Trotter said.

Back to the fun stuff, Trotter said she hits the megastore four or five times before she goes on a big trip like this. One of her must-bring items: The latest season of "SpongeBob SquarePants" on DVD.

"He calms my nerves before the race," Trotter said. "For some reason, his antics and silliness is something I really cherish when I'm getting ready."


THE CANDIDATE: Lopez Lomong is throwing his hat in the ring. He's mounting a campaign among his teammates to be the U.S. flagbearer at opening ceremonies Friday.

Lomong, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, moved to America in 2001 and became a U.S. citizen last year. As great a feeling as it would be to carry that flag at the front of the American contingent, Lomong says it's the process that he loves.

"I'm going to mount a little campaign," he said. "In America, everyone has a chance to do all these things. You follow the rules, people will choose, and if I'm blessed to get that opportunity, I'll get it."

U.S. team captains meet Wednesday and they all can nominate a candidate, either from their own sport or another. Then, the captains vote, and the winner gets one of the most prestigious honors an Olympian can have.

Win or lose, though, Lomong is in love with the democratic process, something he didn't see much of during his harrowing upbringing in Africa. He is registered to vote and looking forward to casting his first-ever ballot in this year's presidential election.

"I'm just looking forward to getting all these things going on, having my voice heard. To be, just an American," Lomong said. "I've been sitting on the sidelines. I can't wait to go and fill out the ballot. It will be tremendous."


THE 13 STEPS: Kerron Clement is trying to get used to a big change in a sport where every little detail makes a difference.

In November, the 400-meter hurdles specialist hired Bob Kersee as his coach, and Kersee made him commit to a 13-step technique between barriers. Clement is the defending world champion, but has long struggled with his finishes in the hurdles and wanted to make a change.

A big change in a short time.

"It was kind of risky, but that's the chance you have to take to excel in athletics," Clement said. "You have to take chances."

He finished second behind Bershawn Jackson at Olympic trials, a result that raised some eyebrows. Clement was unconcerned.

"Basically, the plan is to peak at the Olympics, not at the Olympic trials," said the University of Florida graduate, a two-time NCAA and national outdoor champion. "So, Bershawn beat me at trials. OK. It's cool."


WIND SPRINTS: Also expected to arrive to camp Tuesday is Allyson Felix. ... A contingent of French athletes also training in Dalian checked out of their hotel Tuesday and headed back to Beijing. ... After two days of cool breezes and blue skies, the weather turned hazy and stagnant. Trotter had a minor dizzy spell while talking to reporters after the morning practice, but was fine and walked to the bus with no difficulty.


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