(CNN) -- When Tyson Gay sprinted to three gold medals at the 2007 world championships, it looked like the American would be athletics' next superstar -- but that dream unraveled as another man emerged to conquer all.
Usain Bolt was the name on everyone's lips after the Beijing Olympics the following year, when a hamstring injury meant Gay could only compete in the 100 meters -- and he didn't even reach the final.
However, 2012 finds the 29-year-old from Lexington, Kentucky, in prime condition and ready to challenge Jamaica's world record-holder in London in August.
CNN's Human to Hero series tracked down Gay as he prepares for battle with Bolt in the UK capital, having decided to focus on the 100m event in June's U.S. trials.
"I played football in high school, I played baseball when I was younger, things like that, but I think it was the passion I had for track where you want to do an individual sport and be the best, I think -- there's nothing that can replace that."
Gay's promise on the track was clear from an early age, though it wasn't until he had turned 14 that he could beat his older sister Tiffany, who he says has inspired him.
He became a three-time 100m state champion at Lafayette High School and his time of 10.46 seconds in a 2001 state meeting remains a record. He was the first athlete in history from the University of Arkansas to claim a National College 100m title.
Gay says an illustrious American quintet of Olympic medal winners have proved an inspiration to his career.
Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson, who share 13 Olympic gold medals between them, are joined by the legendary Jesse Owens, who won four golds at the Berlin Games of 1936.
Jon Drummond, who won a gold and a silver in Atlanta in 1996, and Maurice Greene, who secured two golds at Sydney in 2000, complete the list.
"When I grew up Carl Lewis was still running, Maurice Greene was running -- he was that figure I see, like Michael Johnson. I really wanted to look up to the fast guys -- so those two guys were some of the guys I looked up to.
"In history class at school it was Jesse Owens. You had to learn about him first before you got to Maurice Greene and those guys.
"I do some training with Jon Drummond -- he's given me a lot of great advice. Maurice Greene as well. He'll text me sometimes to check how I'm doing to see how an injury is going. That really means a lot to me."
Gay has never made an Olympic final but is intent on breaking that run in London when, once again, 100m and 200m world record-holder Bolt will be the man to beat.
"This is my biggest Games. I think this is me in my prime. I'm gonna be fit and ready. I'm gonna put everything into this one," Gay said.
"I really believe it's going to be one of the most exciting Olympics in history. I want to run with the best, that's how I've always lived.
"Basically, last year I ran on one leg and ran 9.7 seconds. I know I can be a lot more dangerous as long as I stay healthy and get a lot stronger in the weight room.
"I haven't been to an Olympic final yet, so I know it's going to be a different type of atmosphere but I'm thinking I can control it.
"I've really learned over the years how to control my adrenaline and let it all out when they shoot the gun versus letting the crowd and the lights and the camera get to me.
"So I'm thinking I can handle it, but I think I will be a little bit nervous."