By Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis, Special to TrackAlerts.Com
Perhaps there is no other athlete in the history of Jamaica’s track & field who is more adored or talked about like Asafa Powell. Powell has had a large following ever since he came to real prominence in that infamous race in Paris in 2003. He is widely acknowledged as the man who revived Jamaica’s sprinting on the world stage after the departure of Raymond Stewart and Michael Green.
The quiet and unassuming Powell captured everyone’s imagination with his impressive technique and to this day is regarded by many as the purest sprinter ever seen in track & field. Parents desirous of their child or children taking up sprinting and doing it correctly must watch repeatedly videos of Asafa Powell in action.
In 2005, Asafa Powell set a new world record in the 100m when he registered a dazzling 9.77 seconds in Athens, Greece. The following year in 2006, Powell equalled his own world record twice, first on June 11 in Gateshead, England and on August 18 in Zurich, Switzerland. He was unstoppable in 2006 and truly deserved being crowned the IAAF male athlete of the year.
In 2007 Powell lowered his personal best and established a new world record of 9.74 seconds in Rieti, Italy in the easiest and most flawless sprinting execution witnessed by track pundits and fans alike. No other sprinter in the history of track & field has run more sub-ten seconds than Asafa Powell. At the time of writing, Powell who admits his desire to reach 100 was credited with a whopping 84 times. It is one of the track & field records that many believe will stand for a very long time. Yet many persons are of the view that he has underachieved in his career.
Disappointment is an ingredient of track and field and Asafa Powell and his legion of fans have suffered through a lifetime of them throughout his illustrious career. One of the unfortunate things about Powell’s journey is that he is unfairly criticized by some who say he melts like unattended ice cream in the sun at major championships. They feel he lacks the mental fortitude and hunger normally associated with 100m sprinters.
In 2003 as a promising 20 year old sprinter Asafa Powell crashed out in the 100m quarter-finals at the 9th World Championship held in Paris, France. In that infamous race, Powell false started simultaneously with American Jon Drummond who protested disgracefully by refusing to leave the track. A naïve Powell joined Drummond temporarily before exiting the venue. In later years, Jon Drummond received a more permanent disqualification from athletics.
The following year (2004) Powell was one of the favourites to win the 100m Olympic title. His form leading into the games was very encouraging as he was definitely one of the fastest men in the world at that time. Powell finished fifth in the event won by America’s rising star Justin Gatlin in 9.85 seconds. Powell was also a finalist in the 200m at the same games but withdrew from the event.
The year 2005 was a bitter-sweet one for Powell. After establishing his first world record (9.77), injury robbed him of a chance to win his first global title in Helsinki, Finland. The Olympic champion, Justin Gatlin won in 9.88 seconds and Powell’s compatriot Michael Frater got the silver medal in 10.05 seconds.
In 2006, Powell won his first individual gold medal when he captured the Commonwealth 100m title in Melbourne, Australia. Following on the heels of his success in 2006, many persons strongly believed that Powell would win his first World championship crown in 2007. The fans probably felt confident it was Powell’s time to shine for two reasons:
His main nemesis Justin Gatlin was now serving at the time an eight year ban for testing positive for testosterone.
Powell was enjoying the status of being the world record holder since 2005 and was oozing with confidence and looked invincible.
However, at the World championship in Osaka, Japan, perhaps the pressure of a hopeful nation weighed heavily on Powell who led for most of the 100m final before being caught by Tyson Gay (9.85) of the United States and Derrick Atkins (9.91) of Bahamas. Powell won bronze in 9.96 seconds. Interestingly, Atkins never ran another legal time under 10 seconds in his career after that. The following month on September 9, 2007, Powell lowered his world record to 9.74 seconds.
In 2008, Powell’s world record was eclipsed by his countryman Usain Bolt who ran 9.72 seconds at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York defeating then World Champion Tyson Gay. Bolt won the 2008 Olympic title in a world record 9.69 seconds and Powell (9.95) who was a medal favourite faded once again into fifth position in his second Olympic final. It was a disappointing return that to this day has caused many persons who wagered on the event sleepless nights. These dismal returns are the main reasons for many raging debates amongst loyalists and neutrals about Powell cracking up like biscuits at major championships and producing faster times on the Athletics Grand Prix circuit. Seventeen (17) days after the Olympic final, Powell ran 9.72 seconds in Lausanne, Switzerland. Usain Bolt and Churandy Martina were the only finalists from the Olympic final who were missing from this race.
The following year Powell ran a creditable 9.84 seconds to claim the bronze medal at the 2009 World championship in Berlin, Germany. It was the fastest 100m race ever where Usain Bolt ran an astonishing world record 9.58 seconds to win gold.
Despite winning the 2011 JAAA Senior trials injury forced Powell to miss the World Championship in Daegu, Korea. All was not lost however, as he won the 100m Diamond Race that year. At the London Olympics in 2012 Powell got injured after 60m in the 100m final and looked dejected as he hobbled to last. Powell was suspended in 2013 for using the stimulant Oxilofrine. His initial 18-month suspension was reduced to 6 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) and Powell returned to competition in 2014.
Powell is now being conditioned by his older brother Donovan after splitting from longtime coach Stephen Francis. He seems to have a new lease on life and if his outward appearance is anything to go by, fans will be in for a treat later in the season.
On November 23, 2015, the sprinter will turn 33. It is now ten years since he ran his first world record. His fans will be hoping that the best of Powell is yet to come and that he will achieve that elusive gold medal in the twilight of his career. It would be a shame if this gifted sprinter does not earn any more individual medals to show his children and grandchildren many years from now. All things being equal, Powell should return to the Bird’s Nest stadium in August with one only thing on his mind.
Will the people’s champion deliver on the biggest stage on this occasion? Only time will tell if Asafa Powell and fans will be singing the R. Kelly song ‘The storm is over’.
About the Author:
Noel ‘Bravo’ Francis is a very exciting and creative freelance sports writer specializing in the fields of athletics and cricket. His colourful down to earth yet professional personality makes him a favourite amongst athletes and fans. Readers are often exposed to his detailed knowledge and passion which usually increase their interest in the athletes, events and the sport overall. He has a first degree in Banking & Finance and works in the financial industry. Contact Noel at [email protected]