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Powell off to Santo Domingo to see off Gatlinís challenge in Doha

12 May 2006
www.world-track.org

Asafa Powell (Image of Sport) Asafa Powell (Image of Sport)
www.imageofsport.com

By Gary Smith

After matching American Justin Gatlin's world-leading performance this season of 9.95 seconds at the Jamaica International in Kingston, last weekend, Jamaican world record holder Asafa Powell will now turn his attention to this Saturday's Felix Sanchez Invitational in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Also in the group of athletes who left the island Thursday are: Olympic relay gold medal winner Sherone Simpson and World Championships 100m surprise silver medallist Michael Frater, who will be Powell's main challenge in the men's 100m dash.

Powellís season shaping up well

After a premature end to his season last year, Powell opened up this year's campaign with a few 400m runs before twice cruising to 10.03 performances en route to claiming his first global title at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games in Australia in late March, which virtually opened up the clash between himself and Gatlin.

They might not be at the same venue, running side-by-side, but the rivalry between Powell, the world record holder and Gatlin, the World and Olympic champion will continue this weekend.

Powell's coach, Stephen Francis, said earlier this season that his pupil's record will not linger around for Gatlin to break, but given the results from last weekend and the American's intentions for Friday's meeting in Doha, Qatar, the world's fastest man for 2006 will likely be the record holder.

The time has come

Gatlin and coach Trevor Graham is confident the world record of 9.77sec set in Athens last year by Powell will be broken this season, but Francis made the challenge even more interesting when he stated that Powell will go faster than his personal best this season.

"I don't know how much faster Asafa can run.... but I know that he will run faster than 9.77 seconds this year," Francis said.

He then confirmed on the famous Caribbean Track forum that "Asafa is likely to produce PBs in races where Gatlin is present," which there means that, if the Jamaican continues to hold the record, Gatlinís mammoth task of eclipsing it will only get more difficult.

The last meeting between the two sprinters was last June at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon. In a close finish, Gatlin was given the victory, with both runners credited with a wind-aided 9.84 performance. According to the statistics, in head-to-head clashes Gatlin has finished ahead six times to Powell's three, but Francis isn't convinced.

"Yes, Gatlin has finished in front of Asafa 6 times in races," he said, but added that "two of those times Asafa was injured during the race... (and) one other time he was under instructions not to try in the race."

Gatlin captured 12 of his 14 races in 2005, including the sprint double at the world championships in Helsinki, an event in which Powell was forced to miss because of a groin injury sustained at the Norwich Union London Grand Prix in late July.

Good for the sport

The rivalry between the two is one of, if not the biggest in the track and field thus far, and Powell believes it's good for the sport.

"It is very exciting right now, because everyone is looking forward to it," Powell said. "It's good for the sport, because people will start drawing more to track and field for the rest of the season."

"Everyone is saying to me, 'go out there, beat Gatlin, beat Gatlin', everyday I hear the same thing."



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