Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Make it legendary | Asafa Powell: From criticisms to Sub-10 King

Published:Monday | May 29, 2017 | 5:00 AMKeisha Hill
Track and field star Asafa Powell.
Sub-10 king Asafa Powell.
Asafa Powell speaks about his achievements and challeges at his St Andrew home recently.
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Former world record holder and one of the five fastest men in the world, Asafa Powell may not have as many individual gold medals as some of his track-and-field counterparts, but most likely, he will be the first athlete in history to run 100 sub-10 seconds races over 100 metres.

Powell's journey to this milestone is like a good story, one that keeps the fans engaged and one that we will remember for a long time. Since his rise to stardom in June 2004 when he recorded his first sub-ten 100-metre race while participating in the National Junior Track and Field Championships, Powell has gained significant traction throughout the years, and, over time, has exploded on the international scene.

Powell became one of the favourites for a medal in the 100 metres at the 2004 Athens Olympics after winning the Jamaican National Championships with a personal best time of 9.91 seconds. Although he ended the season with a record-equalling nine sub-10 second runs, Powell finished just fifth in the highly competitive Olympic final, with a time of 9.94 seconds.

In that same year, following his Olympic disappointment, Powell set a new national record of 9.87 seconds for the 100 metres at the Memorial Van Damme in Brussells.

 

2004 IAAF Grand Prix

 

Powell recorded five International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Grand Prix wins in 2004. In addition, he became the first man to win both the 100 metres and 200 metres races at the World Athletics Final in championship record time. Powell was world ranked number one for the 100 metres and number four for the 200 metres at the end of the season.

"The first question is who this guy is, and then the second question is where he is from. I am always so excited to say that I am from Jamaica. Everyone gets so excited when they hear the name Jamaica. Even in some countries when you are competing in the stadium and you see Jamaican flags, it helps to build the spirit. Sometimes, I am not even in sub-10 shape, but when I go out there and see all the flags and I hear persons calling my name, I get even more confident," Powell said.

Powell has been an exemplary athlete. Although not as decorated an athlete as many feel that he should be, he came along in an era that has produced arguably the greatest sprinters of all time. Powell has held the 100 metres world record between June 2005 and May 2008 with times of 9.77 and 9.74 seconds.

He has consistently broken the 10-second barrier in competition, with his personal best of 9.72s being the fifth fastest time in the history of the event. As of September 1, 2016, Powell broke the 10-second barrier more times - 97 times - than anyone else.

 

Guinness record holder

 

Powell later made the Guinness Book of Records as the record holder of the 'Most Competitive 100m Sprint Races Completed in Sub-10 seconds. It speaks volumes about his consistency and is a phenomenal achievement.

"I am very proud that one of my legacies will be the fact that I am in the Guinness Book of World Records. For years to come, the younger athletes are going to be trying to break this record that I will leave behind. It's going to be fun for me to sit back and watch them going for that record, and it's something I will be honoured to leave in the sport," Powell said.

Over the years, despite his many disappointments, Powell remains committed to the sport and to Jamaica. Powell continues to hone his skills, and it is quite likely that when he hangs up his spikes, Powell will still have more to offer.

"When I hear the criticisms, it motivates me to work harder and keep going. A lot of people would fall along the way, but I didn't grow up like that," Powell said.

"All the negative criticisms and my detractors have helped to make me stronger. I grew up in a family where we had our ups and downs, but we have always been strong. I grew up in a strong Christian home, so I've had many prayers. I have always wanted to prove to myself that I can do this, and I always tell myself that I am this good. I won't actually stop until I prove to myself that I am that good," Powell said.

Powell is the youngest of six sons and planned to be a mechanic before he took up track and field. His eldest brother, Donovan, was a 60-metre finalist in the 1999 World Indoor Championships, where he also clocked 9.5 seconds for the 100 yards dash.

"I never saw myself doing track and field, not at this level anyway. I was always fast and the best in the school. In my last year at high school, I said that I wanted to be famous one day, but I never knew that I would even get to the Olympic Games and now to be in the Guinness Book of World Records, it's phenomenal," Powell said.

Powell's goal for this year's staging of the IAAF World Championships in London, England, is to be on the medal podium. "I have to get through the National Trials first, but I am still thinking positive," Powell said.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com