Another world record?
Coach claims Asafa will run even faster this year
Saturday, June 18, 2005
He has no idea how much faster Asafa Powell can go, but coach Stephen Francis is certain that this year his young sprinter will take the 100-metre world record even lower than the 9.77 seconds he set in Athens on Tuesday.
“I don’t know how much faster Asafa can run because in sprinting, how fast you run depends a lot on conditions, where you run, how humid it is, how high it is, the wind, the competition, the adrenaline that is flowing and so on. So I can’t tell you… but I know that he will run faster than 9.77 seconds this year…,” Francis told Sporting World late Wednesday, shortly after a welcoming ceremony for Powell at the Norman Manley International Airport.
Francis’ confidence stems from the belief that based on training methodology and with the World Championships in Helsinki still six weeks away, his athlete is still some distance from peak condition.
“Hopefully not, and judging from his history, it isn’t so,” said Francis, when asked if there was a danger that Powell, who is now the world’s number one male athlete, had in fact already peaked.
“We always run faster later in the Summer and I don’t think that this year will be an exception. We are trying to see if we can get him to handle instructions about how to run his rounds, which is the difficulty he had last year,” he said.
Last year, Powell placed a disappointing fifth in the Olympic 100-metre final (10.94) in the Olympic Stadium - the very same venue of Tuesday’s triumph - after running impressively in the rounds and entering the final as the clear favourite and the top-ranked male sprinter in the world.
According to Francis, who had gained acclaim for his great success with local athletes in his MVP track club, even before the coming of Powell, the latter would have broken the world record last season had he encountered ideal conditions.
“I knew from last season that when we were finished with him down in August/September he would be able to break the existing world record any time he got favourable conditions,” he said. “I felt he could have done it last year, but he had a big problem with the wind in the races that he had. This year he has had a bit more luck… and I have been expecting him to go this fast from the season started,” Francis added.
After the events of last season, the big challenge, said Francis, was to get the 22 year-old refocused.
“There were two things that could have happened (after last year),” claimed Francis.
“The first thing is that despite all the disappointment about his performance in the Olympics, he had a season that was a whole lot better than he could have ever imagined. He was obviously the number one sprinter in the world and the question in my mind was how do I get him to not rest on those laurels; to get him hungry to come back knowing that he could do a lot better. The other possibility was that he could have used the disappointment of the Olympics to almost give up and to implode almost…” he said.
The danger of demotivation was averted with the help of support staff, team-mates, friends and the policy of constantly “discussing stuff” with Powell, as well as goal-setting.
And in the build-up to the World Champs, Francis says the course will involve methodical training and very selective competition - the emphasis being on maintaining form and building to a peak.
“He (Powell) understands that right now he has raced a lot more than he normally does at this time of the year… and we are pretty much going to go back into a period of training now. Apart from the National Trials next week, he will only race two or three more times before the World Championships and our emphasis will be on preparing him for the World Championships, and the major meets …” said Francis.
He claims that Powell’s virtual unknown status at high school - the world record holder attended the unheralded Charlemont High - has made him more ‘coachable’.
"Asafa has the advantage … that he was never a high school star and when I started coaching him, he had never had a formal coach before, so you will find that he doesn’t have any expectation in his mind, as to what he can do or what he should be doing, he just does it because he wants to do it and he is encouraged …
“You find that he doesn’t really know what his potential is, even when I say to him ‘Boy, you know you can run this fast’ he says ‘Yeah’ because he doesn’t understand just how fast he can go … It is easy with him. A lot of the athletes that I coach were never great stars at high school. We are trying to pick athletes like that because we figure that accomplishing on the senior level is more about attitude than talent,” he said.