By Robert Taylor, Special to Trackalerts.com
Many have the view that Asafa Powell career fell short because of the high expectations placed on him. Some believe the emergence of Usain Bolt took away the spotlight from Asafa's accomplishments but I beg to differ (it has nothing to do with Bolt).
The world 2003 world championship was for Asafa to cement his place but a controversial disqualification got in his way. 2004 Athens Olympics was to be Asafa's time but the picked start that caused a restart was his undoing. This is probably the most tensed I have ever seen an athlete in a 100m finals at that level. A groin injury caused him to sit out the 2005 world championship.
The year 2007 was the rise of Tyson Gay which caused the undoing of Asafa again. That year I believe Asafa fell prey to his mind. It seems everyone knew how fast Asafa was except Asafa. The USA coaches did not put Tyson Gay on the 4x100m anchor leg because they were afraid Asafa would run him down and this would have negatively affected Tyson's endorsement potential. This shows the level of respect they had for Asafa's speed.
With the rise of Usain Bolt in 2008 and the corresponding injury of Tyson Gay, the expectation was for a one (Bolt), two (Asafa) at the Beijing Olympics. Here again Asafa performed well below expectations with a fifth place position. The year 2009 was the year Asfa performed up to expectations with a third place finish. This time around he had an early season injury which affected his training and the first two positions were times of 9.58 and 9.71. Both times would have won in any other previous world championship and Olympic years with the exception of 2008.
As the years go by with injuries piling up on Asafa, I have read and heard so many reasons for his lack of top level hardware; that can would make most individuals' head spin. Some say it is heart, some say it is lack of recovery from rounds, some say it is nervousness, some it is his weak will to win and some say loss of form under pressure. You name it and it has been said by someone. I find it useless to decide what the reason (s) was or were but for such a great and talented athlete, it is hard to think of Asafa and not think about his big game performances or lack thereof.
We all see such a magnificent athlete with one of the best or the best start and acceleration we will ever see in a 100m race. I remember the 9.72 he ran after the Beijing Olympics that was one of the most fluid and beautiful piece of running I have ever seen by any athlete at any time or era. At the London 2012 Olympics, one of the British commentator called Asafa the “nearly man” because of his lack of performance up to expectation in major meets. Sadly enough he could not run to his talent level because of the same groin injury he had in 2005 and 2011.
With all his setbacks, Asafa Powell is one of Jamaica most resilient athlete in its history. Too many times Jamaican fans write him off to see him rise to some chagrin, surprise or expectation. I remember in 2011 some members of the Jamaican press were openly questioning Asafa's ability to make the Jamaican 100m team only to see him win the trials but sadly again, injury caused him to sit out the world championship that year. The positive test was another hurdle that caused many to predict the demise of Asafa.
The Jamaica anti-doping agency (JADCO) made an embarrassing mockery of the whole thing. JADCO actually aid the major Western press in portraying it as something a lot more serious than the stimulant he tested for. Their time wasting in having a hearing, open hearing and the 2 year ban made many believe Asafa career came to an unfulfilled sad ending. With the backing of WADA, IAAF and USADA, Asafa was able to get his sentence reduced by CAS. To many surprise, Asfa, while running a shortened season was able to produce a season best of 9.87.
With the long layoff and the mental fatigue coming from the process of the hearing, the ban and successful appeal, he understandably surprised many with his 9.87 performance. This is just highlights of the incredible consistency of Asafa's running below 10.0 seconds flat. This consistency and the great acceleration of Asafa is what drive expectations to be so high. To be frank, I was hugely disappointed in 2004, 2007 and 2008. All I see then was this extremely talented athlete who seems to be able to wake out of his bed and run 9.8’s whenever he wants to.
The years 2015, 2016 and 2017 are years of championships. Asafa is now 32 years of age and should be seeing the twilight of his career soon. The ban might turn out to be a blessing in disguise because this might be what his body needed to recover from all those years of injury. A shortened season might be the best thing he could have had. That 9.87 could be a confidence booster and as they say with age comes wisdom. He might finally find a way to conquer all those things that caused his failings in the past. A medal in the coming years might do wonders to change the way Asafa will be judged by history.
It would be nice if he does something that defy the negative perception in the same way his performances defy the positive expectations many had in the past. It might be wishful thinking; it could be a dream and why not dare to dream. That great start and acceleration, helped with the enhanced ability to reduce deceleration rate may come true. Then we will be sure history will judge Asfa positively.
It would be sweeter for his fans to not only witness victory but to overcome the agony of defeat they experience so many years before. This would definitely cement Asafa's legacy and of course undo the negative perception of many. Regardless of what fans and critics think about his shortfalls in championship finals, objectively speaking, Asafa Powell has an accomplished career few will ever equal or surpass. Hoping that with or without a major championship victory, this is what history will use to make its judgment.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, trackalerts.com.