EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) - Tyson Gay never realized how harmful stress could be until the American sprinter returned from a doping ban last year.
“It was so stressful, my hair started thinning,” Gay told Reuters via phone as he prepared for this week’s U.S. world championships trials in Eugene, Oregon.
The hair is fine now, maybe even a little longer than when Gay became a double world sprint champion in 2007 and set the U.S. 100 meters record two years later.
But there is new tension.
“I haven’t made a world championship team since 2009 so there is a lot of pressure on myself to get back,” said Gay, who was sidelined by injury in 2011 and missed the worlds two years later after a positive test for a banned steroid.
“It would mean the world to me to put on the (team) uniform again.”
The 32-year-old is still undecided as to whether he will attempt to make the team in both the 100 and 200 or just the shorter distance and will make that decision after the 100 meters final on Friday.
“If I do well enough in the 100, I’ll leave well enough alone and not put the extra pounding on my body,” he said of the 200 meters event, which follows the 100.
“But depending on how I do in the 100, we’ll decide if I need to race in the 200.”
Gay last represented the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympics, winning a silver medal with the 4x100 meters relay team and things went downhill from there when he lost the medal after testing positive for a banned substance in 2013.
He controversially received a one-year ban, instead of the usual two, because he co-operated with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and made a low-key return to athletics last year.
The doping suspension still weighs on him, but a new environment and new coach have improved his outlook.
The Kentucky-born sprinter has moved to Los Angeles, where he is trained by John Smith, the coach of former world record holder Maurice Greene.
“He has changed my mind-set about harping on the past,” Gay said.
”He tells me to take some of the energy and stress that I had and put it on the track.
“He said don’t worry about trying to prove people wrong about the suspension that you had. Worry about running fast again and everything else will take care of itself.”
The speed is definitely beginning to come back.
His 9.88 seconds in the 100 at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene last month was the year’s fourth fastest time, something that allowed him to tell himself ‘hey I’ve still got it’.
A new arrival has also brought new happiness.
“I have a son, Tyson Jr., who is 8 months. He’s a lot of joy,” said Gay, who also has a 14-year-old daughter.
And living on the West Coast has produced another surprise for the Southerner.
“The food,” said Gay, who has changed his diet to eat more healthily. “I miss the humidity (of the South) a little bit but as far as the food, it is the best I have ever had.”
(Story refiled to adds dateline)
Editing by Greg Stutchbury