Asafa Powell is fastest - but not the best
By Michael Johnson
Last Updated: 12:05am BST 26/09/2007
Asafa Powell broke the world record he already held two weeks after he failed at the World Championships in Osaka. Powell went into the championships with high expectations from everyone but he failed again just as he had previously done at the World Championships in Helsinki in 2005 and the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.
Fast but not furious: Jamaica’s Asafa Powell
I watched the world record performance and it was impressive because, as usual, Asafa did not run the entire race, he started to shut down with about five metres to go and still broke the world record, so one would believe that he can still run even faster. Asafa is an impressive athlete, having broken the world record twice already in his young career. But is he a champion? Not yet. Will he ever be? Doubtful!
It all became very clear for me in Osaka. I’ve never believed that Asafa could pull off his best performance when the pressure is on, due to his past failures at championships, but what I saw in Osaka was extremely disappointing.
Asafa has a great start and is extremely powerful. That type of power translates into incredible speed at the beginning of the race and allows him to quickly separate from the field and put pressure on everyone else.
Mostly, this will cause other athletes to tighten or to alter their race strategy, making it much easier for Asafa to run his own race and stay within his own race strategy.
Running your own race and not being affected by other competitors is essential in sprint events. So when Asafa is in a race with the best in the world, like the experienced and professional Tyson Gay, it is difficult to remain unaffected by what is happening in the other lanes. This takes away the huge advantage that Asafa has been accustomed to.
But what I saw in Osaka was an athlete who not only had his advantage taken away by the level of talent he faced, but an athlete who was not prepared to run his best race even before he stepped on the track.
Powell is one of those athletes who has not figured out how to compete under the immense pressure and expectation that comes with being one of the best. Competing against other people doesn’t mean you have to dislike them or display the arrogance and bravado we saw with former champion Maurice Green, but it does require you to have pride, belief and, most importantly, confidence.
In Osaka, Asafa ran the early rounds as he typically does, getting a great start, separating from the field, and jogging through the finish line. Perhaps it would have been smarter for him to have put less effort into his start and drive, which is almost guaranteed to always be there for him, and put more effort into the end of his race, which he almost never executes completely.
Lining up for the final, he had his typical docile, calm, unexcited, demeanour. It was the start of the men’s world 100 metre title and everyone in the stadium appeared more excited than the man many had favoured to win it. More excitement and energy from Asafa might have been helpful. Not for the fans but for Asafa!
Athletes’ actions will follow their thoughts, just like any other person’s.
If you think negatively you are likely to produce a negative action. If you think positively you have a better chance of producing a positive action.
If Asafa had a more positive and confident demeanour he may have produced a more positive result at those World Championships.