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Powell hopes to live up to name

21 April 2007
www.wcsn.com

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By Robert Falkoff

Operation 9.75 looks like a viable plan. It's a plan that sprinter deluxe Asafa Powell and his handlers hope to successfully complete by the 2007 World Championships, if not sooner.

As another season of track and field begins to come into full focus in the year prior to the Beijing Olympics, fans wonder how low Powell can go in the 100 meters. Powell and Justin Gatlin had both turned in 9.77's (three alone by Powell) as of last summer and appeared to be on a European collision course. But Gatlin was wiped from the picture after announcing last July 29 that he had tested positive for testosterone or its precursors, leading to his acceptance of an eight-year ban from the sport. That leaves Powell as the undisputed king of the sprinters and in position to set a world mark in the 100 that would capture the fancy of track fans everywhere.

Powell, 24, will slowly work his way toward peak form by running two relay events in April. He has said a 9.75 clocking in the 100 would satisfy him this year, and that goal doesn't seem overly ambitious to those in the know.

"It would not surprise me at all," said former University of Houston sprint coach Mike Takaha, who used to mentor sprint champion Carl Lewis. "I don't know that I'd say he would. But I'd say he could."

To lower his best mark from 9.77 to 9.75, Powell would need to improve by about four inches per one/100th of a second over the 100 meters, according to Takaha.

"It's less than a foot difference between running 9.77 and 9.75," Takaha said. "Everything has to come together at once. But if he gets a good start and conditions are right, it can happen. When he has a good start, he's really good. It's totally conceivable to me that he'll run faster than 9.75. With the right wind conditions, the right physical shape and the right mental frame of mind, I'm sure it's very possible."

Although Powell won't have Gatlin around to push him in the 100 this year, Takaha doesn't necessarily think that's a negative in Powell's bid to lower the world record.

"Obviously, he ran a 9.77 last year winning by a ton," Takaha said of Powell. "I don't know that having somebody right next to you is necessarily the thing. If guys run 9.8, he knows he has to run well to win. The margin for error there is not that great."

Powell ran two of his 9.77's in 2006. The first came on June 11 at Gateshead, and he repeated the feat on Aug. 18 at Zurich. Takaha expects Powell to have a training schedule this year designed for peak performances at the World Championships in Japan.

"The two things he has yet to do is perform really well at the World Championships and at the Olympics," Takaha said. "That's what he has to do now. If he doesn't win World Championship gold or Olympic gold, that's the only thing that would be a big knock on him. He has been really good for the last couple of years, and he's still young and should keep getting better.

"I'm looking forward to the World Championships to see if he can maybe put four races together in two days. Come through that the way that Carl Lewis did, Gatlin did, Maurice Greene. guys who were the top sprinters of their time because they could win the big championship."

If Powell gets the big championship and that mark of 9.75 simultaneously, he could ride that wave of sprinting momentum all the way to Beijing.

The Jamaican sprinter's first name -- Asafa -- means "rising to the occasion." Should Powell complete Operation 9.75 this season, he will have risen to the occasion in a most convincing fashion.



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