Asafa Powell - profile

Asafa Powell is World Athlete of the Year - IAAF Magazine
Monday 5 February 2007
Jamaica’s Asafa Powell was presented with the prestigious World Athlete of the Year Award following a spectacular season which saw him remain undefeated at 100m and run under 10 seconds an unprecedented 12 times! At the age of 23 Powell also won a share of the Golden League Jackpot, equalled his own World record twice and won the Commonwealth Games gold medal.

By Anthony Foster

In what will certainly be considered his best season to date, Asafa Powell, has broken a few barriers on his way to being the top man over 100 metres in 2006.

In addition to clocking 12 sub-10 seconds, which is the first time a sprinter has secured more than 10 in one season, Powell has also created history by becoming the first male to end a Golden League Season unbeaten.

Asafa, the youngest of six brothers, secured times of - 9.77 (twice), 9.85 (twice), 9.86 (twice), 9.89, 9.91, 9.95, 9.96, 9.98 and 9.99, the best by far in any one season.

Though American Olympic and World Championships gold medallist, Maurice Greene, won a share of the Golden League in 2000, he did lose one of his races.

Born to William and Cislyn Powell, the world’s fastest man had no interest in track& field up to the year 2000, and only watched the action because his brother, Donovan, competed in the event at the Sydney Olympics.

“I was interested in the 100 metres, but not in all track and field,” he said. “I was playing football then. It was not until 2001 that I got interested and started training.”

He joined Stephen Francis at the University of Technology (UTech)-based MVP Track Club that same year (2001), and immediately he showed sings of improvement.

He made the Jamaica Junior team for the Pan American Games in Argentina, after finishing in the top six at the National Championships, though he never won a medal at the High School Championships.

In 2002 he improved to 10.12, then 10.02 in 2003, the year when he made a name for himself by beating a high-class field to win the 60m at the Millrose Games.
He, however, was disqualified from the semi-finals of the World Championships in Paris later that year.

After breaking the 10 seconds barrier for the first time in 2004 at a track meet at GC Foster College in Spanish Town, Jamaica, running 9.99 seconds, Powell went on to great things.
Despite failing to spark at the Olympic Games, Powell was still able to end the year with nine sub-10 seconds clocking, joining American Maurice Greene and Namibia’s Frank Fredericks.

He missed the 2005 World Championships with an injury, despite running a World record 9.77 on 11 June, but it was this season, 2006, which ended with more success.

Not only did Powell end the Golden League season unbeaten, he accomplished all his victories in sub-10 second times, including a 9.77 World record equalling run in Zürich to beat American sprinters Tyson Gay, who had a personal best (9.84) and Leonard Scott (9.97).

This was Powell’s second World record equalling run in less than two months, having already clocked the same time at the Gateshead Grand Prix on 14 June. This also made him the only sprinter to run a World record three times.

“The highlight of the season was when I surprised myself and ran 9.77 in Gateshead and again in Zurich … those were really the high points for me,” he said.

Powell’s other Golden League victories came with a 9.98 opener in Oslo to beat American Shawn Crawford (10.02) and Marcus Brunson (10.06). He later ran an impressive 9.85 to win in Paris ahead of Brunson (10.08) and Ronald Pognon of France (10.11) on his way to shattering the 9.96 meet record, which was shared by a trio of Leroy Burrell and Maurice Greene, each of whom were former World record holders, and Namibian Frank Fredericks. He again ran a comfortable 9.85 in Rome to beat Brunson (10.04) and Tyson Gay (10.04).

However victory number five which came in the fifth race of the series in Brussels, which he won with a time of 9.99 was considered as his worst. The 23-year-old Powell was very slow out of the blocks but demonstrated his class by motoring down the stretch to win ahead Brunson, who ran a relatively close second in 10.06 seconds. Leonard Scott, also of the USA, was third in 10.11.

The winning time was disappointing for Powell as he had been eyeing the World record, but the triumph gave him a fifth consecutive win in the Golden League Series, at which time, guaranteed him a share of $500,000, which was set aside for winners of five races in the series.

After the race, Powell blamed the starter for the poor start, which he said cost him a World record.

“I wasn’t even ready in the blocks. I just heard set and boom,” an angry Powell said.

While his opening 20 metres were slow, Powell said the last 80 might have been his best ever. “I was feeling good, I felt like I was going to run a World record,” Powell said. “Maybe that was the fastest I have ever run over the last 80 metres.”

Unlike his race in Brussels, Powell was in total control at the start of the final event of the series in Berlin. He got out cleanly at the gun and his 100m victory was never in doubt.

Despite having the best finisher Tyson Gay (9.96 – lane 6), and the best starter Leonard Scott (10.07 – lane 4) in the two lanes either side of him, running out of lane five, Powell’s 9.86 was a joy to watch, in the end equalling the meet record held by Maurice Greene.

Powell, born in Linstead, St. Catherine, admitted afterwards that American Olympic and World champion, Justin Gatlin’s absence made things easier for him in 2006.

"Probably you can say that, because he is a good athlete, strong runner, he is someone who ran 9.8 regularly … He would have posed much more of a challenge to me than the other guys out there. So you can say it made things a little easier,” Powell said on his arrival on the island in September.

In the end, Powell, along with American quarter-milers Jeremy Warner and Sanya Richards won all six events, thus sharing a Jackpot purse of US $249,999 each (83,333 + 166,666) for achieving their wins.

“I am satisfied, everyone got a fair share of it, so I am very happy with that,” he said of his share of the jackpot.

Powell, who joined Francis’ MVP Track Club in 2001 as a 10.7 sprinter before improving to 10.5 the same season, added that he did not look at it as a Golden League Series, but more so as entering a competition where he wanted to win everything.

"I did not look at it as a Golden League season, I just went out there and competed… I got the six Golden League wins, and I feel good that I won all my races this season and that was my aim this year,” he said.

Apart from winning the Golden League jackpot, Powell, started the year with a bang when he captured his first major title by winning the Commonwealth Games 100m crown in March with a time of 10.03.

In addition to winning the Golden League, the Commonwealth Games, and equalling the record twice, Powell said all his achievements came through motivation. He said that desire to succeed came because he lost two brothers in one year. His brother Michael was shot dead as he was driving his taxi cab in New York City in June 2002 while Vaun collapsed while playing football in Georgia in June 2003.

“I have a responsibility to make my family happy,” he explains

In looking back at his season, Powell has few regrets if at all any.

“Awesome, it was a really, really great season. I have nothing to complain about, it was a really great season for me,” was how the former UTech student first described the season.

Powell also won the US$30,000 first prize for his 9.89 run at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, Germany.

“I think I could have run 9.75 a number of times this season but it didn’t come. Ultimately I would like to run 9.68, the fastest anyone has ever run under any conditions.”

Looking ahead to next season, Powell said he doesn’t know what to expect. "I don’t know about next season. All I know is that I really enjoy what I do and I believe I have a lot more years to go.”

Published in 2006 Yearbook