Big race!... Powell vs Bolt in Rome
André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
Jamaican sprinting royalty will be on show in the Eternal City, after former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell booked an early season clash against double Olympic champion and world record holder Usain Bolt at this year's Golden Gala IAAF/Samsung Diamond League meet in Rome, Italy.
Powell has reintroduced himself to the indoor circuit after a seven-year hiatus, but what the world is really clamouring to see is the renewal of his competitive rivalry with his compatriot, Bolt; as two of the three fastest men in history get ready to test their readiness for track and field's biggest stage.
The clash, scheduled for May 31 - just about two months before the pair are expected to start their gold medal campaign at the London Olympics, comes just days outside a full year since their last meeting, which incidentally also took place in Rome.
On that occasion, a returning Bolt, who had been on ice for nine months because of injuries, found a late 'kick' to edge Powell to the line in an exciting contest. Bolt stopped the clock at 9.91 with Powell crossing the line in 9.93 - pedestrian, by their own lofty standards.
The World 200m champion has dominated Powell over the years; beating the man he openly declared as an inspiration in nine of their last 10 meetings. Powell's last victory over Bolt came in Stockholm during their build-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
"I think I was too worried by Usain at the end of the race," was Powell's analysis after last year's defeat in Rome.
However, according to his agent Paul Doyle, there was no consideration of which athlete was already booked for the meet, the focus is to get his client in the best shape ahead of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association/Supreme Ventures Limited National Senior Championships and the Olympic Games.
"We are being very selective this year because Coach (Stephen) Francis doesn't want Asafa to race too much this year before the trials, so we are being very selective about what meets he will do," Doyle told The Gleaner yesterday. "To be honest, we have not thought once about who he will be facing, we just try to plan based on coach Francis' training plan; we want to ensure that Asafa races when he is ready to race. We don't care who is in the race, the coach has his plans for Asafa and that is to ensure that he is up and running very fast for the trials and Olympics."
"If he, as a result, has to race Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake or Tyson Gay, it doesn't matter, it's all about getting him ready," Doyle added.
Doyle added that Powell, who spends most of his summers in Italy and has been competing at the Golden Gala for some six years, is always excited about running there and is looking forward to his next visit.
"He has always loved running in Rome," said Doyle. "There is great weather there and it's a well-organised meet. The people of Italy are big fans of Asafa, as you know we spend the summers in Italy every year so it feels almost like a home meet for him."
The Golden Gala is the third meet in the lucrative Diamond League series, which opens in Doha on May 11.