Two years agoU.S. sprinter Torri Edwards's training partners went to Europe for the summertrack season, leaving her behind in Los Angeles. Edwards, who had been slappedwith a two-year suspension in July 2004 after testing positive for a bannedstimulant, spent long afternoons on the track at USC (her alma mater) and Mt.San Antonio College, sprinting past housewives and retirees in the sunshine."[I was] bored, angry and sad," Edwards recalls, "missing a sportthat I love." ¬∂ Seven months ago Tyson Gay's coach went to prison, leavinghim behind in Fayetteville, Ark. The night before Lance Brauman began servinghis 366-day sentence for embezzlement and mail fraud, which he had committedwhile coaching at Barton County Community College in Kansas, Gay and histraining partners gathered at his house. Brauman handed each of them a thickbook that mapped out their workouts for the entire 2007 season. His wife, Kim,and daughter Jayci, 3, sat in the next room. "He was pretty emotional,"says Gay. "He was crying a little bit."
Sprinters acceptloneliness as an occupational hazard; no one can help them between the startingblocks and the finish line. Yet Edwards and Gay have tasted a deeper isolationand emerged powerfully.
Last weekend atthe USA Track and Field Championships in Indianapolis, Gay, 24, dominated the100 and 200 meters, delivering the fastest single-meet 100-200 double inhistory (combined time: 29.46 seconds). Edwards continued her comeback with avictory in the 100 and finished third in the 200 to earn a place in both eventson the U.S. team for the world championships from Aug.¬†25 to Sept.¬†2in Osaka, Japan.
Gay won Fridaynight's 100 in a personal-best-equaling 9.84 seconds, despite a slightheadwind. It was the fastest time in the world this year and the second-fastestinto-the-wind 100 ever. (Maurice Greene ran 9.82 into a lesser breeze inwinning the 2001 world title.) Gay improved on Sunday afternoon, scorching the200 field in 19.62, the second-fastest half lap in history, behind MichaelJohnson's world record of 19.32 at the 1996 Olympics. It was also into thewind, the fastest such 200 ever run.
"[Gay is]making a case for being called the greatest sprinter who has ever walked theearth," said Ato Boldon of Trinidad, a four-time Olympic medalist."He's going to have to back up his times with some world and Olympictitles, but from what I saw this weekend, you're going to be mentioning him onthe short list with Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene and Michael Johnson."
Gay has done thisby studying the book that Brauman gave him (and talking by phone with hiscoach, who is incarcerated at a minimum-security prison in Texarkana, Texas,and scheduled for release on Sept. 27), by working with former Olympic sprinterJon Drummond and even by recalling the faith he learned from his mother, DaisyLowe, when they attended St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.,where Gay was raised.
"When thingsgot hectic, he'd call me and say, 'Mama, what do I do?' " says Lowe."Well, I don't know much about track, so we would just praytogether."
Edwards,meanwhile, spent much of 2005 commiserating with her coach, L.A.-based sprintguru John Smith. Her nightmare had started during the '04 Olympic trials, whenit was reported that she had tested positive for nikethamide, a stimulant thatEdwards said she mistakenly ingested in a glucose pill before a meet in Aprilof that year.
She qualified forthe 2004 Games in the 100 and the 200 but was denied entry when the Court ofArbitration for Sport turned down her appeal of her two-year suspension(despite writing in its decision that Edwards "has conducted herself withhonesty, integrity and character" and that "she has not sought to gainany improper advantage"). "Her career went pffft," says Smith,"but she never stopped training. Some days, 'training' meant going over tothe corner of the field and crying together."
At night Edwardsendlessly called and e-mailed international antidoping and track officials,begging for a reduction in her sentence. In November¬†'05, after the WorldAnti-Doping Agency had reduced the penalty for inadvertent use of nikethamideto a public warning, Edwards was reinstated. "I told the truth allalong," says Edwards. "What happened is a part of me, but it's not whoI am." No. That would be national champion.