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Associated Press/Photo by Bill Kostroun

Summer heat

Sports | Showdown looms between the world's best sprinters

Issue: "2009 Books Issue," July 4, 2009

On May 30, at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York, sprinter Tyson Gay made a stunning statement. He didn't use words. The fastest man in America blitzed a world-class field in the 200 meters with the third-best time ever run at that distance, 19.58.

The result sent tremors through the sprinting world but echoed loudest in the ears of Jamaican Usain Bolt, the world-record holder in both the 100 and 200 meters. Bolt dominated the Olympic Games in Beijing last summer, when Gay failed to qualify for the finals in either race. Many believed the hamstring injury Gay suffered in the U.S. trials was still bothering him, but the athlete denied it.

Now, there is no denying that Gay is back to full strength. He will face Bolt at the World Championships in Berlin this August. But the young Jamaican says he may look to race Gay before then: "I definitely would want to meet Tyson before the world champs to see where I am at. I am looking forward to that showdown."

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Bolt made a wordless statement of his own in May when he set a world record at the unusual distance of 150 meters at the City Games in Manchester, England. The race indicated no lingering ill effects from the minor foot surgery Bolt underwent in April after crashing his car into a ditch along a highway in Jamaica. The 22-year-old superstar says the accident caused him to re-evaluate his life and priorities. Chief among them: retaining his crown as the fastest man in the world.

Football legacy

By Mark Bergin

With the passing of football great Jim Owens June 6 at the age of 82, sports commentators are wrestling with defining the legacy of a man known as much for racial controversy as gridiron success. The longtime coach at the University of Washington helped put the West Coast on the college football map with three Rose Bowl appearances and a national championship over his 18-year tenure.

But racial flare-ups plagued the team for much of that time, peaking in 1969 when Owens suspended four black players for refusing to sign his team loyalty pledge. The incident sparked protests and allegations of racism. Those wounds remained fresh more than three decades later when UW erected a statue honoring the Hall-of-Fame coach. At that time, Owens expressed regret for his past actions: "To my players, I thank them and apologize for any hurt they may feel. I hope today we can begin to heal the wounds of the past."

Speaking on behalf of his black teammates, former Owens player Rick Redman said the apology triggered "a tremendous lift in our hearts." Perhaps therein lies the most significant piece of the Owens legacy-reconciliation.

Walking ads

By Mark Bergin

Sports franchises continue to look for and find new marketing opportunities for advertisers. And nothing is sacred-see Comiskey Park becoming U.S. Cellular Field. Now the WNBA, a 13-year-old league in desperate need of more revenue streams, is going the way of European soccer teams, selling the space on the front of players' jerseys formerly reserved for the team name.

For the Los Angeles Sparks, the logo and name of Farmers Insurance now graces the space above the numbers. For the Phoenix Mercury, it's identity-theft-protection company LifeLock. Other teams are expected to follow, given the league's newly minted rule change to allow for such sponsorships.

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