LONDON — Tyson Gay was so choked up, he couldn't speak. Justin Gatlin was so happy he struggled to find the right words.
Once again, Gay walked away empty-handed from the Olympics when he finished fourth in the 100-meter final that was dominated by Usain Bolt on Sunday night.
"I tried, man," Gay said as tears streamed down his face. "I tried my best."
With Gatlin, it was never about effort, only whether he would get another chance. He made the most of it, chasing Bolt and his Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake to the wire before winding up with the bronze.
Eight years ago, Gatlin was on top of the sprint world after winning gold in Athens. But he tested positive for excessive testosterone in 2006, leading to a four-year ban that prevented him from defending his title in Beijing. At 30, Gatlin wasn't sure he would be in this position again.
"It just feels good to be back," he said. "To be honest, I went out there to challenge a mountain. I went out there to challenge the odds. Not just myself and everything I've been through, but the legacy of Usain Bolt. I had to go out there and be fearless."
He took third behind Bolt (9.63 seconds) and Blake (9.75) in a personal-best 9.79. He needed that, too, because Gay finished 0.01 seconds behind.
For Gay even to line up was something of a medical marvel. He had surgery on his hip last summer and was running on grass up until 41/2 months ago because his hip was still too sore to take the pounding of track workouts. He hardly raced at all leading up to the Olympic trials, where he finished runnerup to Gatlin to earn an Olympic spot.
"That's all I had, man," said Gay, who didn't make it to the 100 final in 2008. "I gave it my all. I feel like I ran with the field — came up short."
American Ryan Bailey was fifth in 9.88.
Sanya Richards-Ross won the first U.S. gold at the track. She erased the bad memory of her 2008 bronze-medal finish by accelerating down the stretch to win the 400 in 49.55 seconds.
"What I have learned is you don't win the race until you win the race," she said. "I knew I had to cross the finish line first to call myself the Olympic champion."
Nearly banging elbows with runners on both sides of her — and with defending champion Christine Ohuruogu of Britain making up ground on the outside — Richards-Ross got stronger, not weaker, this time over the last 100 meters. She surged to the finish and won by about a body's length.
Ohuruogu finished second in 49.70, and American DeeDee Trotter got the bronze in 49.72.
Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee in his first Olympics, finished last in his 400 semifinal and said he's setting his sights on 2016.
"I'll probably be at my peak. … I'm looking forward to that more than anything," he said. He will turn 30 in November of that year.
The South African still expects to run the 1,600 relay, which starts Thursday.
The Gators' Tony McQuay of West Palm Beach finished fourth in that semifinal and didn't advance.