EUGENE – Ryan Bailey came into the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials as one of the favorites in the men’s 100 meters.
There was reason to believe he would make another Olympic team after placing third at the 2012 Trials with a time of 9.93 to punch his ticket for the 2012 London Games.
But Saturday was a day of disappointment for the McKay High School graduate.
About 30 meters into the first of five 100 heats, a recurring left hamstring injury surfaced and Bailey finished a distant sixth with a pedestrian time of 10.36.
Unless Bailey recovers quickly and is able to compete Thursday in the 200 preliminaries, his quest to be part of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is over.
“I can’t even put it into words,” a dejected Bailey said after the race at Hayward Field. “This is like the highlight of our sport. It only happens every four years and to be injured is the worse feeling I can imagine.”
Bailey said the hamstring injury surfaced periodically in the last year, but he was confident entering the Trials.
“I’ve been feeling good for the last couple weeks,” Bailey said. “I was actually feeling pretty confident. You can’t control what happens to your body.”
Nor could Bailey control a disappointment that should have been among the highlights of his career.
Bailey was part of the silver medal-winning U.S. 4x100 relay team at the London Games, which set an American record of 37.04. He ran the anchor leg in the final, pushing two-time Olympic 100 and 200 champion Usain Bolt of Jamaica down the stretch.
In 2015, the U.S. relay team was stripped of its silver medal by the International Olympic Committee as a result of Tyson Gay’s doping case.
“There’s nothing I can do about that. That wasn’t my fault,” said Bailey, who placed fifth in the 100 in London. “That was kind of relying on a teammate to be clean in a sport that probably a lot of people aren’t.”
Gay received a one-year ban and remains a medal contender. The American record holder in the 100 placed second in his 100 heat Saturday and moved on to Sunday’s semifinals.
“There’s still some tension,” Bailey said of his relationship with Gay. “We were friends before and I feel like he was more misled then cheating. I can’t be too mad.”
Bailey said “it’s possible, but highly unlikely” that he’ll be able to run in the 200 prelims Thursday. He hopes to compete again in 2016.
If not, the future still appears bright for the powerfully built 27-year old Bailey, who is taller and heavier than most world class sprinters at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds.
Justin Gatlin, a member of the U.S. 4x100 relay team in London, sympathized for his former Olympic teammate.
“To be able to go through your ups and downs and through those four years to get where you are now, everyone wants to be at 100 percent when they get here,” said Gatlin, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist won his 100 heat Saturday. “Hopefully, he’ll be able to heal up and finish the season good and be able to come back for the world championships next year.”
Bailey, who lives in Sherwood, had plenty of support Saturday in a venue where he was crowned 6A state high school champion in the 100 and 200 in 2007. His family was in the stands, including 6-year old son Tyree.
Even if Bailey isn’t part of the 2016 Olympics, he vowed to remain a presence on the world sprinting stage.
“I’ve been through a lot. An injury’s not gonna hold me down,” Bailey said. “I’ll always bounce back and when I come back, they’d better be ready.”
ghorowitz@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6726 or Twitter.com/ghorowitz