LEXINGTON, Ky. — Thousands of people joined Olympic sprinter Tyson Gay at a candlelight vigil Monday night to honor Gay’s 15-year-old daughter, who was fatally shot over the weekend.
Gay stood on the track at Lexington’s Lafayette High School where he and daughter Trinity Gay excelled, and he thanked people for showing support following the girl’s death early Sunday after gunfire erupted outside a Lexington restaurant. The teen’s mother, Shoshana Boyd, also was present amid the crowd honoring her memory.
“I want you guys to love each other, have peace and protect each other,” said Gay, who added that he was numb from crying over her death. “That’s what Trinity would have wanted. … Life is not a joke.”
Many in the crowd wore pink and purple — Trinity Gay’s favorite colors — and some held balloons of those same hues that were later released into the air. Several pairs of track spikes hung from a fence along with a baton that said “In Memory of Trinity.”
Tyson Gay said he and his daughter were very close, according to Lexington TV station WLEX, which spoke to him Sunday.
“It’s so crazy. I have no idea what happened,” Gay told the station.
Grief counselors also went to the Lexington high school Monday for students and staff, Fayette County Public Schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said. Gay attended the same school as his daughter. Trinity Gay was a standout sprinter, placing in the top five in several events at the state championships in May. Her father still holds the state record in the 100 set in 2001.
Lafayette principal Bryne Jacobs, teacher Rhonda Mullins and girls track coach Crystal Washington all described Trinity Gay as friendly and outgoing. She dreamed of becoming a surgeon.
“She was full of energy and life,” said Mullins, who had Gay in family and consumer science classes along with the Future Educators of America club. “She was a kid that everybody wanted to teach.”
Jacobs said Trinity Gay’s mother, who also attended Lafayette, had thanked him for support from the school and community, and noted that Trinity’s life was something to celebrate.
“Our hearts are burdened that she is not in our building anymore,” Jacobs said.
The emotions flowed before, during and after a candlelight vigil on the track where Trinity Gay excelled. Tyson Gay hugged Shoshana. Many others hugged and cried, but Jerome Brown, 16, held his feelings for his former teammate in check.
“I don’t want to cry, but it hurts a lot,” said Brown, who ran with Trinity Gay since she was 9. “I wanted to come here for her mom. With Trinity, when she was on the track, it was home.”
Tyson Gay competed in the last three Summer Olympics. He was part of a team that won a silver medal in the 4×100-meter relay at the 2012 London Games, though that medal was ultimately stripped after Gay tested positive for steroids in 2013.
This past summer’s Games in Rio featured another stinging disappointment for Gay, 33, who has battled injuries. He was a member of the American men’s 4×100-meter relay team that finished third in the final before being disqualified for an illegal baton exchange between Mike Rodgers and Justin Gatlin. The team’s appeal was denied, giving Canada the bronze medal.