Wed | Feb 10, 2016

Trek indoors should suit Powell

Published:Thursday | December 8, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Asafa Powell

Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer

If there's anything we learnt in the last few years, it's that we shouldn't doubt our top coaches. They've steered our talent in the right direction time and again and delivered results of the highest quality. You can reel off the many instances when they defied conventional wisdom.

I thought sprint guru Glen Mills would gradually grow Usain Bolt into a world-class 400-metre runner. It seemed that his long legs would restrict him in the early stages of the 100 and around the curve in the 200. Happily, I was wrong. Bolt has turned the 100 and 200 upside down, with Olympic and World titles and stunning world records.

Who among us thought that coach Stephen Francis had hit pay dirt when he recruited Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Brigitte Foster-Hylton and Shericka Williams.

Among them, only Shelly-Ann had won a Boys and Girls' Championships gold medal. Yet, all of them but Shericka have achieved world number-one rankings, and the pencil-slim one has silver medals from the Olympics and the World Championships.

So the coaches have earned our trust.

Yet, the announcement that Powell is going to race indoors next season raises an eyebrow. He last ran indoors in 2004 in a search for competitions with multiple rounds. This was in preparation for the Athens Olympics. The campaign started brightly enough as he ran 6.56 seconds for 60 metres in New York. It didn't end as well after a 6.60 in the World Indoor Championship heats, he limped out of the semis, injured, with a time of 6.71.

Foster-Hylton got hurt indoors too. After that, MVP avoided indoor competition from then onward ... until last year when Nesta Carter ran the World Indoor Championships.

The indoor 60 is the only sprint title that our men haven't ever won. In 1997 in Paris, Michael Green came closest, in second place. In that same indoor season, the former William Knibb and Clemson University sprinter set the national record of 6.49 seconds.

Great potential

Powell has the potential to go faster than 6.49 indoors and to capture that missing 60-metre title. Like Usain in Beijing and Berlin, Powell has covered 60 metres faster than the world indoor record time of 6.39. In his last world record - 9.74 in Rieti, Italy - he passed the 60-metre mark in 6.32, according to one expert's video analysis. In the 2007 Brussels meet, in literally still air, Powell zipped past 60 in 6.38.

An Istanbul victory might boost his confidence. With Asafa continuing to streamline his diet and resting more this season, it is possible.

I was thinking of Powell racing a little less in the Olympic year, with big peaks dialled in for the National Championships, where his event will be demanding, and the London Olympics.

Some may think that, at 29, Powell is surplus to our sprint requirements these days. That's a mistake. He had to miss Daegu because of injury, but nevertheless he won the National Championships and ran under 10 seconds nine times with a best time of 9.78.

1991 World Championships

After all, Carl Lewis won the 1991 World Championships in world-record time at age 30, and Linford Christie won the 1992 Olympics and the 1993 World Championships at 32 and 33, respectively. So Powell isn't too old.

I'd love to see him get to our Nationals and London fresh and injury-free. In that condition, he would certainly lower his 100-metre personal best of 9.72 seconds. He might even get past 9.70.

If our top coaches had followed conventional wisdom, we wouldn't have this golden era. Powell is so good that his indoor season might be a fine start to his Olympic campaign, whether or not he goes to Istanbul for the 2012 World Indoor Championships.

If he does go to Istanbul and wins, it would surely boost his confidence as he bids for a place on the podium in London. Conventional wisdom might not recommend Powell going indoors, but there's nothing conventional about the way this golden era was built. In fact, brilliant decisions by our coaches have erected a platform for unprecedented success.

- Hubert Lawrence has covered athletics since 1987.