Jamaica Gleaner Online
‘Asafa is too quiet’ - Track and field being hurt by lack of personalities, says Johnson
published: Thursday | May 4, 2006
Asafa Powell … not promoting track and field enough, according to track great Michael Johnson. - FILE
AMERICAN SPRINT legend Michael Johnson believes Jamaica’s Asafa Powell is too quiet and track and field is being hurt by such athletes.
“Asafa Powell should be one of the more visible athletes in the sport, but most people probably would not recognise him if they saw him walking down the street,” Johnson wrote in the column posted on telegraph.co.uk.
“He (Powell) rarely has anything to say about anything,” said Johnson, who became the first man in the history of the Olympic Games to medal in both the 200m and 400m in 1996 at Atlanta.
Powell broke on to the international circuit when he defeated a strong field at the 2003 Millrose Indoor. From there on, the Stephen Francis-trained athlete, despite being disqualified from the World Championships quarter-finals in Paris that same year, improved on his personal best in the 100m from 10.03 in 2003 to a world record 9.77 last season.
Johnson, who holds the 200m record of 19.32 set at the 1996 Olympics and the 400m record of 43.18 at the 1999 World Champion-ships, said athletes must be more professional.
“I’m certainly not suggesting that an athlete should try to be something he’s not, but the sport and the athletes are in desperate need of a little more excitement,” he said.
The man, called ‘Superstar’ in his days, also believes there should be more debate between Powell, who broke the world record with a sizzling run at an IAAF Grand Prix meeting in Athens last season, and Justin Gatlin, the World Championships sprint double champion and Olympic 100m champion.
“There should be a furious debate about who is really the fastest man in the world,” he said.
“This year is an important part of the build-up to the next Olympics Games … I am suggesting that this new generation of athletes show more of their personalities and at least have an opinion about something,” Johnson said in his column.
Of all the present athletes, Johnson singled out Gatlin as the most visible competitor while saying it’s going to take a bit more to get the sport back to exciting moments.
“This new generation of athletes is incredibly talented,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, the sport today, compared with even just a few years ago, is in desperate need of a few stand-out athletes whose personalities - along with their performances - will make you want to watch athletics and keep you interested.”
In giving an example, Johnson, who had several debates during his time, first with fellow American Carl Lewis then Canadian Donovan Bailey, as to who was the fastest man, said: "During my era, there was Linford Christie, who was extremely arrogant and (Maurice) Greene with his swagger and tongue-wagging antics before every race and who proclaimed himself ‘the greatest of all time’.
“Also, Marion Jones who didn’t say much about anything, but certainly kept the journalists busy with her off-the-track relationships with the shot-putter C.J. Hunter and sprinter Tim Montgomery.”