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Gay, Powell can't avoid each other in Osaka

18 August 2007
Watch the world champs live daily webcast on WCSN.com

Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell
By Robert Falkoff

They are No. 1 and No. 1A in the 100-meter sprint fraternity, with the order to be determined as the world looks on.

Finally, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay are preparing to step into the starting blocks simultaneously at the upcoming 2007 world championships in Osaka, Japan. Time for the heavyweights to get it on in the glamor event of track and field. Time for the dodgeball maneuvering behind the scenes, the public posturing and the rhetoric to end. It's 100 meters of clear territory to the finish line. May the best man win and proudly celebrate his "World's Fastest Human" title, at least until affirmation is required at the Beijing Olympics next summer.

Track and field needs this race to send a wave of excitement through the world of sports and generate plenty of hype and hoopla leading up to the 2008 Olympics when fans will again turn their attention to Powell, Gay and anyone else who dares to speed into prominence as a 100-meter sprinter extraordinaire.

The Osaka confrontation, which pits a 100-meter world record holder in Powell against the best 100-meter performer of this season in Gay, comes after two years worth of frustration in trying to stage a big 100 meter showdown.

Back in the early summer of 2006, it seemed that Powell and Justin Gatlin were on course for a celebrated showdown in Europe. They shared the world record time of 9.77 and had meet organizers clamoring for a high-dollar match race. But then Gatlin abruptly fell off the 100-meter map, leaving Powell to go through the remaining 100 meter competition as smoothly as a knife goes through warm butter.

Gatlin now faces an eight-year doping ban after failing a drug test for the second time in his career in 2006. But in his place, another American sprinter has risen to provide a serious challenge to Powell's supremacy. Gay has had a superior outdoor season, compiling the fastest time in the world this year (9.84) and twice running under 9.8, only to have to those times rubbed out because of tailwinds which exceeded the limit of two meters per second.

Powell, meanwhile, has had an uneven summer. Nagging ailments have limited his participation schedule, but he seems to be building momentum toward a possible '07 peak in Osaka. He ran 9.90 to win the 100 meters at Rome's Golden League meet in July.

When Powell had an opportunity to go head-to-head against Gay recently at London's Crystal Palace meet, the Jamaican sprinter passed.

"I was kind of shocked that he didn't show up here in London," Gay told the International Herald Tribune. "I think it's just going to make it more exciting, waiting for Osaka."

Gay has had some injury issues of his own since he swept the 100 and 200 meter events at the U.S. championships in late June. He has had to be careful after experiencing some knee soreness. But for both Powell and Gay, there will be no injury excuses when the moment of truth comes in Osaka.

There are two key questions surrounding the 100-meter showdown: Will Gay get a good break out of the blocks? Will Powell stay relaxed and finish strongly over the final 40 meters?

Gay has improved considerably in exploding from the blocks and that has been a critical factor in his emergence this summer. Nevertheless, he must show he can do it in the pressure of the world championships. Gay has said he's still working on his start techniques.

Powell's primary focus in on maintaining top-end speed from the 60-meter through the tape. Staying relaxed and maintaining form over the latter portion of the race could be the key ingredients in holding off Gay's anticipated late charge.

Assuming weather conditions are favorable, the new urethane surface track in Osaka could be conducive to a world record in the 100 meters. That would make for a special bonus in a race which figures to captivate track and field fans around the globe.

Finally, a world-class showdown in the 100 meters looms and there's no more dodging.

In less than 10 seconds, an entire sport will be enriched.

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