Asafa Powell back on top with first national title since 2011: Feels 'sorry' for Blake, backs Bolt to return to his best
A streak of red, a familiar smile and a wave. Asafa Powell is feeling good about himself again and after winning his first national 100m title since 2011 and his sixth overall, the man with the most sub-10 clockings in history is feeling good about his chances at the World Championships in Beijing, China, this August.
"I can tell you that I'm definitely not going to China to lose. So I will definitely consider myself among the favourites," said Powell, minutes after some mid-race gear changing powered him to a strong win at the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA)/Supreme Ventures National Senior Championships at the National Stadium.
It doesn't happen very often, but Powell raised his head after coming out of the drive phase at the 30m mark and found himself behind a group of athletes led by Nesta Carter and Andrew Fisher. Confident in his form, Powell, dressed in red, stepped on the turbo, worked his way to the front of the pack and crossed the line with everyone else staring at the back of his bald head, confirming what has been a pretty strong start to the season for the former 100m world-record holder.
The embarrassingly tiny and almost illegible clock inside the National Stadium flashed a '9.84' seconds reading for Powell, with Nickel Ashmeade, last year's winner, posting 9.91 for second and Commonwealth champion Kemar Bailey-Cole taking third in 9.97. Those three, along with Usain Bolt, will represent Jamaica in the 100m at the Worlds and at the appointed time, Powell is not only expecting himself to be going much faster, but he is also expecting the same of his countrymen.
"I'm still in hard training. We are focusing on the World Championships, so this was me coming off some hard work and running very fast. So I'm feeling very confident," Powell said. "It's a great feeling to be in this good a shape and God's willing I will be ready for the World Championships this year."
Still, his road back to the top has been anything but a sprint.
The last time the two-time World Championships bronze medal winner competed at a National Championships, he returned a positive sample for the banned stimulant Oxilofrine - a non-performance enhancing or masking substance that while perfectly legal on non-competition days, is banned by doping agencies for use during competition.
Powell received an 18-month suspension by local anti-doping authorities, but later received early clearance from the Court of Arbitration in Sports in a chapter that he credits for increasing his resolve.
The sprinter's coach is also his brother, Donovan Powell, who was more renown as a sprinter at high school.
"With him, it's more of a family thing. It's coming from the heart, it's not a business. It hit us very hard as a family because my father always says if a leaf falls off a tree it should fall on the next son's shoulder. So it hit me as hard as it hit him," said a smiling Donovan. "I was as depressed as he was, but our family is very religious and God saw us through."
Needing some 'seeing through' are Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt - athletes who Powell weighed in on as he admitted concern about the form of his countrymen.
"Funny enough, I just told the two guys (Ashmeade and Bailey-Cole) that I was worried (about the form of Jamaican sprinters) before and I'm very happy that they came out here and ran sub-10 seconds.
"Usain (Bolt) has a way to go, but I think he can come back for the World Championships," Powell said. "It's sad what's happening to Yohan Blake. I feel really sorry for him, but he just needs to take his time. Next year is the Olympic Games, so he just needs to focus on that."