Jamaican sprint trailblazer
As 100m world record holder from 2005 to 2008, Asafa Powell paved the way for a decade of Jamaican domination in the sprinting events.
“Everyone says I was the first one to really help Jamaica dominate [international sprinting]. I am the one who started it all. I’ll be remembered for that, and for my ability to break records. I’d like people to remember me as one of the greatest sprinters of all time,” says Asafa Powell. Going into the new millennium, Powell is the athlete who, more than any other, raised the bar for Jamaican sprinting, carrying it to the forefront of the international stage. On 14 June 2005 in Athens, he broke the 100m world record for the first time, recording a time of 9.77 seconds. He equalled that time on two further occasions, before bettering it on 9 September 2007 in Rieti (ITA) with a time of 9.74. That record stayed intact for four years until it was beaten by Powell’s compatriot Usain Bolt. However, Powell does still hold the record for the number of sub-10 second races, having notched up 88 so far in his career.
In the 4x100m final at Beijing 2008, Powell ran a brilliant anchor leg, clocking a time of 8.70 seconds – the fastest ever final leg recorded by chronometer. Jamaica, who had Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Bolt running the other legs, recorded a world record time of 37.10 to win the final and provide Powell with his first ever Olympic gold medal. The same quartet won the 4X100m at the World Championships in Berlin the following year, with Powell again running anchor. Again, that was Powell’s first victory at the Worlds. For although he has consistently shone in individual races at the world’s top athletics meetings, he has suffered disappointment after disappointment at the major international tournaments.
Blighted by injury
Some have suggested that Powell’s failure to win in individual competition the Olympic Games and the Worlds is the result of mental fragility, but the reality is that his career has been punctuated by injuries, mainly muscular, which have hampered his progress and his ambitions. “Lots of things would have been different,” he reflects. “I would have run faster and my results would have been better. I think I would have had a lot more success over the years, I would have won the Worlds, the Olympics...” It was the same old story in the 100m final at London 2012, when the Jamaican was forced to pull up with a thigh strain just a few strides out of the blocks. That injury, which also ruled him out of the relay, was the latest in a series of misfortunes for an athlete who still craves a full season unmarred by setbacks so that he can show the world his best.