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Wariner, Gay spearhead strong team for Osaka

13 August 2007

By Dave Ungrady

When Bryan Clay limped off the track after completing four events of the decathlon at the U.S. outdoor championships in late June with a sore knee, it seemed his 2007 season was prematurely over.

He was unsure if he would be able to defend his title at the 2007 IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field World Championships in Osaka later this month. He was confused about the origin of his knee pain.

Nearly two months and two MRIs later, Clay says he is focused on winning his second outdoor world title. As the defending champion, Clay received automatic entry into the meet. USA Track and Field announced the U.S. roster today.

"Practice has been going really well the last six weeks," Clay said by phone today minutes after finishing a workout in California. "I've been concentrating on getting healthy and getting prepared for Osaka. After nationals, I didn't know if I would be going to Osaka. We were still trying to figure out what was going on with my knee. But we've been blessed to figure out what was keeping me from healing."

Clay said his knee problem stemmed from a misalignment of leg bones that caused irritation when he landed with a bent knee. The problem caused muscle tightness and swelling. Physical therapy and two cortisone injections helped relieve the discomfort.

"Everything has been feeling good the last six weeks," he said. "I expect things to go well in Osaka."

Clay, who will leave for Japan on Aug. 19, starts competing on Aug. 31. He is one of 10 U.S. athletes who will defend a title at the world championships. Olympic and world champ Jeremy Wariner will also be on hand to defend his title in the 400 meters.

Only one defending champion is entered in three events. Allyson Felix, 21, has entered the 100 meters and the 200 meters and is listed as a member of the 400-meter relay team pool. If she reaches the finals of each event, she could run up to eight races in seven days.

At the U.S. outdoor championships, Felix won the 200 meters and finished third in the 100 meters.

Tyson Gay, who won the 100 meters and 200 meters at the U.S. outdoor championships, is also scheduled to compete in those events as well as the 400-meter relay and could run as many races as Felix.

The U.S. men's team features a noticeably young trio of runners in the 100 meters. Gay is 24. Mark Jelks, 23, and J-Mee Samuels, 20, are competing in their first world championship meets.

"We're probably missing experience in that event, but Tyson has all the tools," U.S. men's team head coach Pat Henry said today by phone as he was boarding an airplane to Japan. "And it's good to get some young sprinters in the mix."

The U.S. trio in the 100 meters could have been younger. Jelks finished fourth and Samuels fifth at the U.S. outdoor championships and are competing in the 100 meters because Trindon Holliday, who finished second and Walter Dix, who finished third, opted not to compete in Osaka.

Holliday is a kick return specialist and a running back on the Louisiana State University football team, which has begun preseason training. Dix, who won the 100 meters and 200 meters at the 2007 NCAA outdoor championships and is a junior at Florida State University, announced in July that he needed a break from track and field.

Bernard Lagat, a silver medalist in the 1,500 meters at the 2001 outdoor world championships and a medalist in that event at the last two Olympics, has also entered the 5,000 meters. He is the only U.S. middle distance runner scheduled to compete in two events.

Henry said he hopes all U.S. athletes arrive in Japan at least 10 days before they compete to, in part, acclimate to the time change. Japan is 13 hours ahead of the eastern United States.

He also hopes to use that time to see which runners are nursing injuries and sort out the relay teams. "There is no question our talent level is very good," Henry said of the men's team. "We look good as long as we're healthy. The key is being healthy at the right time. We're in a critical stage in that situation."

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