Asafa Powell does it again!

Asafa Powell does it again!

Friday 6 August 2004

Zurich - When Maurice Greene won the Olympic 100m gold medal at the Sydney Olympic Games four years ago, Asafa Powell - who was then only 17 years old - was “not interested in athletics”.

“I only watched the Sydney Olympics 100m just to see who would win the race but that’s it!”

After his win at tonight’s Weltklasse meeting in Zurich, the fourth leg of the TDK Golden League series, Powell has not only become interested in the sport but he has now taken over as one of the hottest favourite to succeed Greene as the next 100m Olympic champion.

Since improving the 13-year old Jamaican record of the legendary Raymond Stewart to 9.91 to win the national Jamaican Championships last 27 June, Powell has had an extremely successful European campaign with wins in the Lausanne Super Grand Prix – where he defeated the Rome Golden League winner Aziz Zakari of Ghana – and most importantly exactly one week ago in London where he beat the man he considers the fastest in the world, Maurice Greene into second.

Two wins in seven days

Coming into Zurich, the 100m was headlined as the Greene-Powell rematch and as soon as the gun was fired it appeared that the second leg of their head to head would once again go in favour of the Jamaican.

Taking advantage of a blistering start, Powell was the one to make the race with Greene just centimetres behind – but still behind – as the two men dipped to the line after going stride to stride for a good 40 metres.

Powell initially didn’t look too satisfied with his 9.93 clocking – just one hundredth of a second faster than Greene’s 9.94 - but to reporters he sounded much more positive.

“I am very happy with my race and the time tonight although it is true I could have gone a little bit faster.”

“But it feels good to beat Maurice Greene. He is the Olympic champion and has run 9.79 so for me he still is the fastest.”

This year however the two men have the same season’s best time of 9.91 but with his second win in one week Powell appears to be in a stronger position although the 21-year-old undeniably lacks championships experience.

Former soccer player

The youngest of six brothers Powell didn’t run his first sprint race until the summer of 2001 (personal best of 10.50) when he competed at the Jamaican championships. Until then the strongly built Kingston based Powell used to be a respectable soccer player as he “was scoring lots of goals” for the Charlemont High Scholl and Orange Field County Club teams.

“I was a forward and of course I would score goals. How many? I don’t know. It’s impossible to keep track of all the goals I score but the most I did in one match was three!”

Obviously, soccer is no longer a priority for Powell who has not lost a race since his second-place finish in Rome Golden League’s 200m.

“Yes I think I did take a good decision when I decided to stop soccer and concentrate on track. Playing soccer would be too dangerous now, I don’t want to risk and get injured.”

Training for handling championships pression

A semi-finalist at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Powell had the fastest time of all qualifiers going into the quarter finals at last year’s World Championships in Paris Saint-Denis. However he was disqualified for a double false start in the quarter finals and could not prove the extent of his talent in the French capital.

“It is true that I do not have a lot of Championships experience but I have been training for it and have been listening to a lot of people who have given me good advice on how to handle the rounds.

“I will take it easy in the first two rounds and then go a little bit faster in the semi and then give it all out in the final. I am extremely motivated.”

Coached by Steven Francis, Powell quotes former Olympic champion Linford Christie as the athlete he takes inspiration from.

“Why? Just because he really runs well!”

A multi-talented young man, Powell is also a good musician as he plays both the guitar and the drums for his local church band. In Jamaica, a country with an unbelievable sprinting tradition, all hopes now rely on Powell for what would be the country’s first Olympic 100m gold medal.

First Jamaican to win Olympic gold?

Curiously, Jamaica has never taken the short dash Olympic gold, Don Quarrie and Lennox Miller – respectively in 1976 and 1968 – having come closest with a silver medal each.

“Things are just crazy back home. My family tells me of what is happening and I read it a bit in the newspapers. It does put a little bit of pressure on me but I just keep focussed and relax.”

And for Powell, whose older brother Donovan was a semi-finalist at the 1999 World Indoor Championships, it all seems to be about relaxing and staying focussed.

“For me the thing is to be able to relax as much as I can. If I’m able to be relax, it will all go smoothly.”

Greene and Collins will not let him win

There are a couple of other men – among many others – who will undoubtedly attempt at preventing things from going too smoothly for Powell.

Former World champion and defending Olympic champion Maurice Greene who had put his first of two defeats to Powell in London down to “a very bad start” had to be content with second yet again in Zurich.

“But my start is getting better and I’m not gonna let him win in Athens!”

A disappointing seventh in tonight’s Zurich race, World champion Kim Collins of Saint Kitts also believes Athens will be just another story.

“Believe me Athens won’t be that easy for him. Obviously the win tonight has boosted his confidence but the Olympic Games is something completely different with all the rounds one has to go through. If he can play that game we’ll see.

“It’s not just about talent you know, one needs much more than that to win a major Championships title!”

Whatever happens in Athens, Asafa Powell has probably scored the most important win of the season heading into Athens where he will now have the burden to be considered as the favourite for the title.

The cool man from Kingston just as to stay relax.