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Two years ago U.S. sprinter Torri Edwards's training partners went to Europe for the summer track season, leaving her behind in Los Angeles. Edwards, who had been slapped with a two-year suspension in July 2004 after testing positive for a banned stimulant, 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 sport that I love." � Seven months ago Tyson Gay's coach went to prison, leaving him behind in Fayetteville, Ark. The night before Lance Brauman began serving his 366-day sentence for embezzlement and mail fraud, which he had committed while coaching at Barton County Community College in Kansas, Gay and his training partners gathered at his house. Brauman handed each of them a thick book 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."
Last weekend at the USA Track and Field Championships in Indianapolis, Gay, 24, dominated the 100 and 200 meters, delivering the fastest single-meet 100-200 double in history (combined time: 29.46 seconds). Edwards continued her comeback with a victory in the 100 and finished third in the 200 to earn a place in both events on the U.S. team for the world championships from Aug.�25 to Sept.�2 in Osaka, Japan.
Gay won Friday night's 100 in a personal-best-equaling 9.84 seconds, despite a slight headwind. It was the fastest time in the world this year and the second-fastest into-the-wind 100 ever. ( Maurice Greene ran 9.82 into a lesser breeze in winning the 2001 world title.) Gay improved on Sunday afternoon, scorching the 200 field in 19.62, the second-fastest half lap in history, behind Michael Johnson's world record of 19.32 at the 1996 Olympics. It was also into the wind, the fastest such 200 ever run.
"[Gay is] making a case for being called the greatest sprinter who has ever walked the earth," said Ato Boldon of Trinidad, a four-time Olympic medalist. "He's going to have to back up his times with some world and Olympic titles, but from what I saw this weekend, you're going to be mentioning him on the short list with Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene and Michael Johnson."
Gay has done this by studying the book that Brauman gave him (and talking by phone with his coach, who is incarcerated at a minimum-security prison in Texarkana, Texas, and scheduled for release on Sept. 27), by working with former Olympic sprinter Jon Drummond and even by recalling the faith he learned from his mother, Daisy Lowe, when they attended St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., where Gay was raised.
"When things got 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 pray together."
Edwards, meanwhile, spent much of 2005 commiserating with her coach, L.A.-based sprint guru John Smith. Her nightmare had started during the '04 Olympic trials, when it was reported that she had tested positive for nikethamide, a stimulant that Edwards said she mistakenly ingested in a glucose pill before a meet in April of that year.
She qualified for the 2004 Games in the 100 and the 200 but was denied entry when the Court of Arbitration for Sport turned down her appeal of her two-year suspension (despite writing in its decision that Edwards "has conducted herself with honesty, integrity and character" and that "she has not sought to gain any improper advantage"). "Her career went pffft," says Smith, "but she never stopped training. Some days, 'training' meant going over to the corner of the field and crying together."
At night Edwards endlessly called and e-mailed international antidoping and track officials, begging for a reduction in her sentence. In November�'05, after the World Anti-Doping Agency had reduced the penalty for inadvertent use of nikethamide to a public warning, Edwards was reinstated. "I told the truth all along," says Edwards. "What happened is a part of me, but it's not who I am." No. That would be national champion.