Aussies to chase Kim Collins, Asafa Powell for summer circuit

:smiley: Overseas runners boost local series
By Jenny McAsey
October 25, 2004

AUSTRALIA’s top sprinters may get to test themselves against 2004 Olympic 100m finalists Kim Collins and Asafa Powell this summer as part of bold plans to revive the local circuit.

Athletics Australia is likely to target Commonwealth stars, in particular the gifted Caribbean racers, to boost fields with international talent during the upcoming season.

As well as lifting the profile of the flagging domestic series, the move would raise awareness of the premier athletes before the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

The only question mark is whether AA, which lost $1.3million in the 2002-2003 financial year, has the funds to lure top international athletes.

The newly appointed chief executive of AA, Danny Corcoran, said the organisation would be limited by its financial problems.

“The priority is financial stability,” Corcoran said. "It is risk versus gain, it is about how much money we spend to put on a really good meet. But with the focus moving very quickly towards Melbourne 2006, we would like to invite international athletes here if it is financially possible.

“We would like to showcase some Commonwealth hopefuls across the spectrum from potential medallists to potential team members, and whet the public’s appetite and put the sport back in the gaze of the general public.”

Corcoran didn’t specify athletes. However, Collins, who won the world 100m title in 2003 and was sixth at the Athens Olympics, is one of those likely to be invited.

He hails from the tiny Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis, and trained in Australia before the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Powell, who finished fifth in Athens, is part of a new breed of Jamaican sprinters who have recently come to prominence.

Others who might be targeted include talented Jamaican 400m runners Michael Blackwood and Brandon Simpson, who would provide competition for Australians including Clinton Hill and Patrick Dwyer who won a 4x400m relay silver medal in Athens.

Sprinters from Britain, who won the Olympic relay gold medal, as well as Kenya’s band of brilliant distance runners, would also be welcome additions to the circuit.

The Telstra A series of domestic meets begins in Perth on January 9, then continues in Adelaide (January 22), Canberra (February 5), Melbourne (February 19), culminating in the national championships in Sydney on March 4-6.

The move to bring in overseas talent follows the lacklustre 2004 series which suffered from poor quality fields, dismal spectator numbers and no television coverage.

In March, the chairman of AA’s selection panel, David Culbert, described the series as being at “the lowest point in its history”.

Culbert’s scathing criticism and the demise of the domestic series were among the catalysts for a wide-ranging inquiry into the troubled sport which reported last week.

Containing 128 recommendations, the report said greater involvement by international athletes would raise the profile of the series and suggested funding could come from re-directing money presently allocated by AA to promotion and publicity.

Culbert said last week he was concerned there was not enough time to revive the forthcoming series.

“They have a massive task,” Culbert said. “I don’t think we’ve got the financial resources to do it this year.”

AA head coach Keith Connor is not convinced international athletes are the way to go. He said it cost at least $10,000 in airfares, accommodation, food and transport for one overseas athlete to attend two or three meets here, and that was without prizemoney or appearance fees.

The Australian