LONDON (Reuters) - Tyson Gay got a taste of the tough conditions the world's best sprinters may face at the Olympics next month while winning the 100 meters in 10.03 seconds at the London Diamond League meeting on Friday.
The American's planned showdown with former world record holder Asafa Powell failed to materialize when the Jamaican decided not to risk aggravating a groin injury.
With the rain lashing the track during the evening and the temperature plummeting to almost winter levels, it began to look a sensible move with the Olympic 100 meters heats only three weeks and a day away.
So Gay, whose 9.69 seconds personal best makes him the second-fastest man ever over the distance behind Usain Bolt had to content himself with beating a field still packed with American and Jamaican sub-10 second talent and gaining some more experience of racing in a London "summer"
In his heat Gay was sluggish out of the blocks and had to work hard to force his way into second place in a blanket finish, his 10.15 the same as heat winner Michael Frater of Jamaica.
It was a similar story in the final as Frater made the early running.
Gay was a little clumsy out of the blocks again but smoother into his pickup. He had to work hard on his concentration running in the shadow of giant compatriot Ryan Bailey, who will also run in the Olympic 100 along with U.S. trials winner and 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlan,
Gay, easy to spot in his bright orange vest, maintained his form well though and forced his way through to record a satisfying victory into a 1.3 meters headwind ahead of Bailey (10.09) and Jamaican Nesta Carter (10.13), who just edged Frater.
It was not a performance that will startle Bolt or world champion Yohan Blake but it gave the 29-year-old American something of a headstart in dealing with the unseasonal conditions the trio could encounter.
"I'm glad I ran. My groin is a little tender but it held up," he said, en route to a sit-down with a bag of ice.
"It was good to get the race in and I got another win under my belt which gives me a little bit of confidence going into The Games.
"It felt pretty good just to get the victory and if the wind had been in our favor I think we all would have run under 10 seconds."
He accepted too that his start was still not there. "Yep, it's something I'm working on but I've got three weeks to get it together," he said.
Gay, who holds the Crystal Palace meeting record with the 9.78 he posted two years ago, said he was disappointed not to face Powell but understood his rival's decision.
"I know what it's like to have a groin injury," said the American, who underwent hip surgery last year after a season of nagging groin and hamstring problems. "I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery."
Having failed to make the 100 final of the 2008 Games when not fully fit, Gay is desperate to take on his rivals in peak condition this time.
Asked if he could beat the Jamaican favorites, he said. "I hope so, that's the plan anyway."
Editing by John Mehaffey