Powell or Gay in Osaka 100m?
Friday, August 24, 2007
THE fastest man in the world will be decided tomorrow as the World Championships in Athletics takes centre stage. If the dominant performance of Asafa Powell in the 100m last year was anything to go by, then mailing the gold to his MVP training camp is not a bad idea.
But each season the blue riband event in athletics gives birth to new stars as well as elevated performances. It is therefore not unthinkable that the current joint record-holder could be as nervous as his rivals at the start of the 100-metre final.
With a pair of world record-equalling performances of 9.77secs in 2006 following on the heels of his eye-popping world record-breaking performance in Athina in 2005, Powell is yet to secure a medal at one of the major world meets.
In an interview recently, the Commonwealth Games champion admitted that in order to earn the title as the greatest athlete in the sport, he would need to showcase gold medals from each of the two major athletic showpiece events (the World Championships and the Olympic Games).
His performance so far this season in his pet event is considered ordinary by his standard, despite posting 9.90secs recently. After enjoying a dream season last year, in which he registered a record 12 sub-10-sec clockings, the 2006 IAAF Male Athlete of the Year is struggling to be equally dominant this season. A recurring groin injury could largely be the reason for this.
Powell’s main rival, Tyson Gay of the USA, has not put a wrong ‘spike’ forward this season and has dropped world record-like performances worthy of unsettling the world’s fastest man.
Cat and Mouse
Interestingly, last year while Powell and Justin Gatlin played the ‘cat and mouse’ game which kept them apart, Powell scored multiple victories over Gay. The irony is that Gay himself has become a monster in the event, so much so that it causes no stir that the two have not met to date this season.
Both Powell and Gay have apparently resisted the temptations of a big pay day ahead of the Osaka showdown. Could this be a deliberate psychological mind game?
At age 24, both sprinters are focused on winning gold in Osaka. History has been less generous to Powell, who has competed at more major championships than Gay and has no major world medal to show to date.
Powell’s misfortunes in championship events dates back to his final year at Champs in 2001 where he was booted from the 100m final after jumping the gun while competing for Charlemount High School.
Powell was to make a similar exit from the World Championships in 2003 after being disqualified in that infamous “I did not move” semi-final race involving Jon Drummond et al.
IT WOULD BE IRONIC IF GAY, WHO CREDITS DRUMMOND FOR DRAMATICALLY IMPROVING HIS START, WAS TO LOSE ON SUNDAY - TWICE STRUCK DOWN BY DRUMMOND AT THE WORLD TITLES. kk
He later flattered to deceive at the 2004 Olympics after his ultra-conservative theatrics in the prelims of the dash rewarded him fifth place in the final, much to the chagrin of his fans. A groin injury was to sideline Powell at the 2005 World Championships.
Obviously assimilating ahead of Osaka and the 2008 Olympics, Powell eventually passed the litmus test at last year’s Commonwealth Games, claiming his first major title and could now be on course to take it a few notches higher at the worlds.
Gay’s meteoric rise has only been set back this season with a knee injury, which has hardly prevented the former Arkansas alumus from being convincing in both the short sprints. Gay is soft-pedalling into the 100m showing overt respect for his more heralded Jamaican rival.
However, he should be greatly encouraged by Powell’s sub-par performance at the GN Galan Super Grand Prix meet in Sweden recently. At the meet one hundredth of a second separated Powell from his Bahamian cousin, Derrick Atkins (10.04-10.05secs). It was later reported that his sluggish performance was attributable to the heavy workouts he underwent in training prior to his diamond-chasing effort.
Gay’s confidence would have also been boosted by his improved starts this year and his unquestionable speed and endurance for which his 19.62secs over the 200m bears testimony.
Of note, both sprinters are exuding high confidence just days before gracing the super-fast track that awaits them in Osaka. Powell is known to put together impeccable races with unparalleled consistency.
Experts say most of Powell’s races have been won after the first 30 metres. But if Powell’s drive and acceleration phases are text book materials, then Gay can be considered a brilliant student, judging from his equally impressive races recently.
In fact, he is now pegged as the favourite to take the sprint double in many quarters. Last year Gay screamed 9.85secs and boasts a pair of fast times this year (9.76W and 9.84secs).
However, like Powell, his pedestrian 10.02secs on his last outing casts some doubt as to whether either sprinter will break the world record in Osaka.
History appears to favour experience, which would make Powell a prime candidate to join Kim Collins of St Kitts (2003) as the only other islander to win the 100m at the World Championships. Gatlin subsequently brought back the title to the United States in 2005.
Two years later, the battle to decide the fastest man in the world looms amidst debates emanating from track & field pundits and enthusiasts. Gay may be relatively new at these championships, but his country has a rich tradition of churning out world beaters in the event.
For Powell, another opportunity awaits him to get that elusive gold and by the same token, he would be eager to erase memories of the 2004 Olympics.
Clearly, his previous failed attempts at winning a world title have slowed him in his quest to become one of the greatest athletes ever in the sport.
Could this 100m gold medal be the first of many to come for either athlete? Osaka has the answers. Good luck to both and may the best man win.