There is no question that Asafa Powell is one of the greats of modern day sprinting. In fact, he has to be credited for inspiring a new generation of sprinters.
Powell famously burst on the scene back in 2003 winning the Jamaican National title in his specialty, the 100m. At the 2003 World Championships, he failed to advance beyond the quarterfinals of the 100m at the Stade de France, in France. Both he and American Jon Drummond were disqualified although Drummond was initially charged with the infraction. Close examination of the film allowed that the American left the blocks ahead of his Jamaican rival. The rationale of two people getting tossed out of a race when there were two completely different reaction times has not been fully explained.
The World title was won by Kittitian Kim Collins in 10.07secs, which was relatively slower than Powell’s 10.05secs run in the first round. His performance in France turned many heads and observers postulated that he would be the next great sprinter with boundless possibilities.
Powell probably has the dubious honor of being the greatest sprinter not to have won an individual Olympic medal. He has built a very faithful band of support, but that might be eroding because of the emergence of stalwarts like one Usain Bolt and training partner Yohan Blake and the re-emergence of Americans Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin, back from a drug suspension. Add a consistent throng of Jamaican up-and-coming sprinters, and the recognition that Powell, 30, is threading dangerous waters is not without merit.
Will be Forgotten Trivia
Notwithstanding the odds against him creating history at this point in his career, Powell remains a major force both nationally and internationally and is, among his peers, one of the most popular runners anywhere. He has run more sub-ten second 100m races than any other athlete. But if Powell is to galvanize his status as one of the truly greats, he must act without delay. Running close to 100 sub-ten second races is perhaps akin to the fifth place finisher in the 100m in Los Angeles in 1984. It is forgotten trivia!
In 2004 at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, the Jamaican jet was picked to become the next Olympic champion. He finished a disappointing fifth, felled by nerves. He did not compete at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, because of a groin injury. In 2007 at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan, he finished a below-expectation third, slowing considerably after a superb start. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, he finished a lowly fifth and again outside of the medals. In 2009 at the Berlin, Germany World Championships, he squeaked in for a bronze medal in his pet event. This was a very inspiring run after overcoming a severe ankle injury. But he pulled out of the 2011 Worlds in Daegu, South Korea, citing a groin injury. At the London 2012 Olympics, he again suffered a groin injury and finished a disappointing eighth, in his third successive 100m final.
Despite those disappointments, Powell continues to predict victory come next opportunity. But some of his fans and admirers believe his time has passed. I still think he has an outside shot at turning back time. However, his insatiable appetite to ‘set himself up’ by declaring victory prematurely is not winning any favors.
Every year there is a prediction that this will be his year but that never equates to a gold medal. Here are a handful of his famous statements: “I am definitely going to win” (2011 WC prediction); “I can catch Bolt”; “I will win 100m under right conditions” (regarding the London Games); Asafa Powell warns Usain Bolt “I’m No1 now,” after an early season lightning run some years ago.
Confidence is good. That is what Bolt has now. Some people may even say it is arrogance. But I think arrogance is burnished confidence. And confidence goes a long way. Powell hangs out with Bolt; he ought to know. Let your speed do the talking, Asafa. Remember that you are only as good as your last race. And you are much better than an Olympic eighth place finish.