EUGENE, Ore. - Tyson Gay accelerated through the first curve. Then, he started flying.
Not in the figurative sense, but in an all-too-real way - a shocking sprawl to the ground that cost America's best sprinter an Olympic spot in the 200 meters and made him look like less than a sure thing, health-wise at least, with the Beijing Games five weeks away.
Gay suffered what his manager called a severe cramp in his left hamstring at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials Saturday and had to be carted off the track. He was at his hotel later, being treated with ice.
'It was just one of those things,' Gay said in a statement released through USA Track and Field.
Gay already has qualified for the Olympics in the 100 meters, but his chances at doubling are gone. Now, the nervous wait begins to see if it was, indeed, just a cramp, and how that affects his training over the next month.
'There is no apparent damage otherwise, except for some road rash from the fall,' said Gay's manager, Mark Wetmore. 'He said he felt a little tightness before the race.'
Wetmore said Gay was getting an MRI as a precaution. Results were not immediately available.
'When he wakes up tomorrow, he'll know,' said former decathlete Dan O'Brien, who famously missed the Olympics 16 years ago. 'He'll be able to stretch it out, he'll be able to move it. If he can't sit on the toilet tomorrow, he's got problems.'
Had this been gymnastics, or a number of other sports, an injury at trials wouldn't have ended Gay's chance to make the Olympics in that specific event. But USA Track and Field plays it straight - top three finishers at trials make the Olympics, no exceptions.
It's a black-and-white policy that most athletes accept, though it could end up costing the American team as much as Gay in Beijing. Gay is the defending world champion in the 100 and 200 meters.
'I don't know any other way to do it, but it's tough,' said Wallace Spearmon, now the favorite in Sunday's finals. 'Either you're ready on this day or not. You can be the best athlete coming into it, and you could be sitting at home watching it from the house.'
It was, in fact, a stunning setback for the 25-year-old Gay who last week set the American record in the 100 at 9.77 seconds. In the final, he ran it in 9.68, the fastest time ever recorded, but not a world record because the tailwind was too strong.
'It's scary. Especially in a round,' said 200 women's favorite Allyson Felix. 'It kind of shakes up your nerves. But you can't really do anything about it."