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Powell happy not to be Beijing favorite

10 July 2008

Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell said on Thursday he was pleased he was no longer the favorite for the 100 meters at the Beijing Olympics.

Powell, who runs in Friday's Golden Gala in Rome as part of his preparations for next month's games, first watched compatriot Usain Bolt steal his world record in May when he ran 9.72 seconds.

World champion Tyson Gay then managed 9.68 at the American Olympic trials last month, the fastest 100 meters of all time, but was deprived of the record because of excessive wind assistance.

"I think it is always better not to have all that pressure on your back," Powell told a news conference.

"This year, for the first time, all eyes will be on Bolt and Gay. Definitely after the disappointments of recent years when I was favorite, I prefer this sort of situation."

Powell took bronze behind winner Gay at last year's world championships in Osaka but remains confident for Beijing.

"I am not thinking about Bolt or Gay. If I run like I know I can, I shouldn't fear anyone," added Powell, who will not have either rival for company on Friday.

The Golden Gala will provide some mouthwatering head-to-head battles, however, especially in the women's high jump.

Croatia's world champion Blanka Vlasic comes up against home favorite Antonietta Di Martino, joint second in Osaka last year.

"I am ready to beat all my opponents, including the unbeatable Vlasic," Di Martino joked, while also staying humble.

"In Beijing I would be happy to win a medal of any color."

In another top rematch, Jeremy Wariner and LaShawn Merritt line up in the men's 400 meters just a week after Merritt beat the Olympic and world champion in the U.S. trials for Beijing.

Double amputee Oscar Pistorius will also be in focus. The South African 400-meter runner, cleared to compete with able-boded athletes by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in May, has little time left to reach the Beijing qualifying mark of 45.55.

"I hope to do the minimum time tomorrow night here in Rome, which I consider as a bit like my second home," said Pistorius, who has received huge support from a sympathetic Italian public.

"I lost at least a month, a month and a half of training [because of the CAS hearing], but I don't think I've wasted time because I hope that my battle has helped all disabled people."

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