Story written by EPelle
Eurosport announced today that Asafa Powell may consider doubling up at the 2007 IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Osaka, a move which, if it comes to pass, can provide more fireworks and excitement than a potential 100m final against the strong Americans and our best Europeans.
Powell has single-handedly shot up and away as the premiere athlete in the sport's most glamorous event, the 100m dash.
He may take on more than he can chew up next year in the 200m, however, with a world championships final likely featuring Americans Tyson Gay, Xavier Carter and Wallace Spearmon along with Powell's Jamaican countryman, Usain Bolt flanking him on either side on. Portugal's Francis Obikwelu - the 2006 European Champion - and France's Ronald Pognon - the European Junior (2001) and U23 (2003) 100m champion, and a member of France’s World Championship winner 4x100m squad in Helsinki 2005 - could also be part of what can conceivably be the greatest sprint final in the history of any championship event.
When Michael Johnson set his world record time of 19,32 in Atlanta 10 years ago, many of the most long-time, hardcore fans swore no athlete in their lifetimes would ever come close enough to even see the mountaintop upon which Johnson's mark was perched. It was outer-worldly, and bordered on absurd. Johnson smashed by 0,33-seconds his own previous best and newly-minted World Record of 19,66 he ran on the same track five weeks earlier at the USA Olympic Trials. That mark had eclipsed the 19,72A Pietro Mennea ran in Mexico City some 17 years earlier. Frank Fredricks (19,68), the only other athlete at the time to ever break 19,70, did so in finishing a distant second to Johnson in Atlanta, running the third-fastest legal time ever recorded.
Johnson never approached that god-like status again, but did set a 400m World Record the following year in Sevilla. Johnson ran a 19,71A in an altitude-assisted race in Pietersburg in the next Olympic year.
Fast-forward your clocks 10 years from that magical night in Atlanta when the world stood still.
This year was a phenominal year for 200m sprinting by the Americans, as collegiate standout Carter ran history's 2nd-fastest time, 19,63, in his first professional effort over the distance in Lausanne. No fewer than four times did his countryman Gay break 19,86, capped by his =5 All-Time 19,68 in Stuttgart in September. A third American, Spearmon, wound up the 2nd-fastest athlete of the season with a 19,65 in Daegu, the 3rd-best ever over the distance, and a race he won by more than a second!
Bolt set a personal best with a 19,88-second clocking in Lausanne, finishing behind both Carter and Gay, who turned in a 19,70.
Powell would like emulate over 100m in 2007 what he did in 2006 - a feat which will be a very tough act to follow.
Powell put together what could be seen as the most impressive sprinting ever in the history of the sport in 2006, and intends on running exceptionally consistent at 100m, and using his base over 400m to contribute to faster 200m times next season.
If he can remain healthy and overcome what could possibly be tired legs after his double heats and rounds, he can push, pull or run even with I believe will be the greatest group of athletes ever assembled for any race - distance notwithstanding. The result could be one or several of the top eight times ever recorded wiped away from the record books.
Powell ran no fewer than 10 times under 10,00 seconds in 2006 - a season which saw him twice equal his 2005 world record of 9,77 seconds, and dip under 20,00 with a 19,90 victory in Kingston. He was undefeated over 100m/200m, and was a co-winner of the 2006 IAAF Golden League $1.000.000 jackpot. Powell has amassed 25 sub-10,00 clockings in his brief career - all of them set after 2003, and is in sole possession of the number of sub-9,90 times ever recorded with 11.
The USA's Maurice Greene tops the list of all-time sub-10,00 clockings at 52, and is 2nd to Powell in the sub-9,90 category at 10. Powell is the 14th entrant on the famous sub-10,00/sub-20,00 club - a comparison to an MLB 40 HR/40 SB list. Carl Lewis was the first entrant, accomplishing the feat in 1983.
One great means of measuring a man's success on the track is how many medals he was won despite his swift feet or strong hands.
Powell has one major individual championship medal to his name - a Commonwealth Games gold he picked up in the spring. He has one monkey off his back, and, by winning every single Golden League competition in front of all comers, he can finally be seen as the threat to claim championship gold.
Should Powell be able to stay aboard a course which doubles his duties in Japan, he - along with Gay and Spearmon (provided they make their USA squad) - will have an off-day before having four 200m races in three days. Powell will need it insofar as he has never before demonstrated he has the strength to last six races - three of which are double-day racing schedules - before a 200m final. If he makes it through the rounds and is in the final with any sense of hunger left in his body, his presence alone could help this race be one for the ages, and one to rival the last World Championships held in Japan.
Japan is no stranger to the history book, with Lewis running a WR 9,86 in the 100m and Mike Powell jumping a WR 8,95 (+0,3 m/s) the last time the IAAF World Championships were held there (1991).
All eyes will follow Powell up from the blocks and down one straight away for the right to be declared the world's fastest man. Should he successfully gain that crown, expectations for the world's fastest sprinter will double as he seeks to out-duel the hungry Americans.
Stay tuned for plenty of updates from now through August 2007.