By ELLIOTT DENMAN
NEW YORK - So much for all those hot-shot, can’t-lose, solid-gold reputations.
Just ask Tyson Gay, L.J. Van Zyl, Teddy Tamgho, Renaud Lavillenie, Kellie Wells, Blanka Vlasic and Brittney Reese,
All checked into Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island for the seventh edition of the Adidas Grand Prix / Samsung Diamond League meet Saturday as red hot favorites, each a world leader or a world champion, and each of them checked out groping for coulada-woulda-shoulda explanations of what went wrong.
On a rainy, coldish afternoon on the East River island, a whole lot failed to follow the script.
Gay, the 2007 World Championships gold medalist and last man to beat Usain Bolt, came to the Big Apple intent on proving he’s all the way back to his status as the only man on earth capable of giving Bolt a legitimate run for his money.
With Bolt - whose presence few promoters can now afford - not here to be seen, Gay was figured to turn the men’s 100 meters into a romp.
It didn’t happen.
Off to a goshawful start, in a race that had three false sarts, Gay didn’t begin regaining lost ground until the final 40 meters, and by then it was too late. While he was able to pull virtually even with Steve Mullings of Jamaica - his former college teammate and now his Florida training partner - he was never able to pass him, either.
It boiled down to the final lean, and Mullings timed his just a tad better. Both were timed at 10.26 seconds - awful time by their standards, but not really horrendous, either, considering the fierce headwind they ran into. They needed to go into the 1000ths of a second before confirming Jamaican Mullings the winner over American star Gay.
“I felt sluggish,” said Gay, who’d run a 9.79 a week ago in Florida.
“I won’t be going around saying I beat Tyson,” said Mullings, knowing Gay would be a whole lot sharper down the road.
“Believe me, he (Gay) will be ready for the World Championships (Daegu, Korea) in late August,” knew Mullings.
South Africa’s Van Zyl was unbeaten in the 400-meter hurdles this year, and held the world lead at 47.66. But he finished fourth in a race that saw Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson topple over the finish line, just ahead of USA’s Bershawn “Batman” Jackson,
48.50 to 48.55. It all boiled down to final “dips” and today it was Culson the bigger, better dipper. “No excuses,” said Van Zyl.
France’s Tamgho returned to the scene of his 2010 triple jump win but never really got going, settling for a subpar seventh place at 51 feet and a quarter-inch. Meanwhile, Great Briton Phillips Odowu was regaining his reputation as a hot home-nation hopeful for 2012 London Olympic gold with a 54-8 1/4 hop, step and jump.
As Lavillenie was flopping - failing to clear a single pole vault bar - another Frenchman, Romain Mesnil, was rising to the occasion, winning it all at 18-1 1/4, but only topping American Brad Walker on the fewer-misses rule.
Wells came to the Big Apple as the world’s speediest 100-meter hurdler, off her 12.58 at Doha on May 6. But this wasn’t her day, either. It was USA countrywoman Danielle Carruthers first over the line in 13.04, to Wells’s 13.06.
High jumper Vlasic had won virtually everything in sight since her shock loss at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She couldn’t use a rainsoaked approach apron as an excuse, either. That approach was just as rain-soaked for winner Emma Green of Sweden, who used it to soar 6-4 1/4, a 2011 world leader. Off-form Vlasic of Croatia bowed out with a subpar 6-2 3/4 second place.
USA long jumper Reese took golds at the 2010 World Indoor and the 2009 World Championships, but that brought no guarantees Saturday, Reese thus settled for third back of countrywoman Funmi Jimoh (21-3 1/4) and Janay DeLoach.
Fortunately for the formchart-formulators, not all events produced shockwaves.
Jeremy Wariner, 2004 Olympic champion, flashed some old form to win the men’s 400 at 45.13. “Better weather and I’d have been in the mid-44s,” he reckoned.
Live by his fierce, patented finishing kick - “ or lose by it,” American middle distance great Bernard Lagat has always maintained.
This time he lost by it - but a mere 24/100ths of a second seprarated him from Ethiopia’s Dejen Gerbremeskel, 13:05.22 to 13:05.46, in a sprint finish that got the crowd up and roaring.
“My timing was a bit off,” said Lagat. “I hung back just a little too long. Even veterans like me (he’s 36) keep learning about these things.”
In a display of incredible depth, 19 of the 21 starters (just three of them Americans) ran 13:46 or better.
The meet was billed as something of a Penn Relays-style, USA vs. Jamaica duel in the sun. And that’s exactly the way it transpired in women’s racing.
America’s Team struck gold with Marshevet Myers in the 100 at 11,36, Allyson Felix at 22.92 in the 200, Molly Beckwith 2:01.09 in the 800.
Sure enough, Jamaica retaliated with Kellie Spencer in the 400 (50.98) and Seton Hall graduate Kenia Sinclair in the Grete Waitz 1,500 meters (4:08.06.)
Throwing honors were divided - Germany’s Christina Obergfoll powered the javelin out to a 211-4 meet record, and 2008 USA Olympic champion Stephanie Brown-Trafton easily outclassed her discus rivals with a 206-6 whirl.
Bottom line: all these globetrotting pro runners, jumpers and throwers had many good days - but few that were truly sensational.
If there was a single performance to “hang your hat on,” it had to be Lukas Verzbicas’ 3:59.71 win in the Boys High School Dream Mile, making him just the fifth U.S schoolboy to break 4 in the mile, and just the second to do it in an all-high school race,
Even the great Jim Ryun, last USA schoolboy to break 4 in a an all-scholastic mile, (1965) cheered Verzbicas’s feat.
“That was a great, smart, courageous effort,” lauded Ryun. “But it still shouldn’t have taken 46 years for this to happen (another runner going under 4 in an all-high school mile.)”