BERLIN (AP) — The world championships may seem to be all about Usain Bolt, yet Tyson Gay has the best times of the year.

That duel on the Olympic Stadium track represents a bigger theme dominating the Aug. 15-23 championships: Will Jamaica be able to maintain its stunning sprint supremacy over the United States, or will Gay and Allyson Felix, another triple world champion, re-establish the traditional U.S. mastery?

The marquee battle gets underway on Saturday with the opening heats in the men’s 100 meters. The final is on Sunday night. The overall fight for supremacy won’t be over until the following Saturday with the men’s sprint relay finals.

After Bolt turned the Beijing Olympics into a one-man show, Gay is healthy and ready after his 2008 season was ruined by a hamstring injury.

“Everyone knows last year, the big matchup — if that’s what you want to call it — didn’t happen. I’m really looking forward to it this year,” said Gay, who won the 100 and 200 at the 2007 worlds in Osaka, Japan, and helped the U.S. team capture the relay gold.

Bolt injured his foot in a car crash this year, and it impacted his work on the curve in the 200. Gay has had a groin ache recently, but says it shouldn’t bother him at the championships.

After Bolt set three world records in as many events at the Beijing Games, there were expectations that he would be unrivaled for years to come. On this season’s list of top times, however, he is second to Gay in both sprint distances.

Gay ran 9.77 in the 100 in Rome last month, compared to Bolt’s 9.79 in Paris. In the 200, the American ran 19.58 in New York, just 0.01 faster than Bolt’s time in Lausanne, Switzerland. That doesn’t necessarily make Gay faster because Bolt ran both races in the rain and into a wind, while Gay had a favorable breeze and good conditions.

The worlds will be the first time they face each other this year.

“I’ve always felt in my mind that I could challenge him,” Gay said. “It’s not like he’s always been the world record-holder or he’s always been the Olympic gold medalist. He’s always been Usain Bolt to me. I’ve beaten him before, he’s beaten me before.”

The U.S. team will be counting on Gay to make sure it does better than last year, when its 23 Olympic medals only included seven golds. Two years ago in Osaka, it had 14 golds and 26 overall to easily top the medal standings.

The U.S. women also failed to win a sprint gold at Beijing, where Jamaica took the individual titles but dropped the baton in the relay for the only blemish in a near-perfect championships.

Felix will be looking for a third straight world title in the 200 after losing to rival Veronica Campbell-Brown in Beijing. She also ran a leg in the winning 400 and 1,600 relay at the 2007 worlds.

“Jamaicans are always running fast, so those will be the main ones” to challenge, Felix said.

Like Bolt, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva can challenge her world record each time she competes. On the track, Kenenisa Bekele will attempt his fourth consecutive 10,000-meter title to follow his long-distance double in Beijing.

The 67,000-capacity Olympic Stadium is hosting its biggest athletics event since the 1936 Olympics. Jesse Owens won four gold medals and became an icon of racial tolerance at a time of Nazi power in Germany.

U.S. athletes will wear his initials stitched on their jerseys. A special ceremony will honor one of the greatest athletes in history when the long jump gold medal is awarded on Aug. 22.


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