London: When in the company of Usain Bolt, it is easy to forget about anyone who is sitting next to him. The media surge towards the fastest man in the world and he dominates every conversation, with everybody hanging on to every word, quip or opinion that drops out of his mouth.
All this is done sometimes while forgetting the fact that sitting next to Bolt was fellow Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell, a man who, as of July 16, has broken the 10-second barrier legally more times than anyone else — 79.
This means that Powell is fast, very fast, but still not fast enough to beat Bolt and, in recent times, compatriot Yohan Blake.
“It’s a one-man race at the end of it and you never know what can happen,” reasoned Powell to Gulf News on the fate that seems to befall him time and again. “Because some guys keep clocking around 10 seconds and then boom, one day they hit the sub nines. So you just have to wait for that day and see what happens.”
The day for Powell may not be far away. It’s make or break time for this veteran athlete who, at the age of 29, seems to be the fastest and most consistent sprinter never to have won an individual Olympic medal.
At this stage of his career Powell would love gold, but deep down in his mind he also wants to finish with dignity. So London could be the last entry into big-time athletics for this softly-spoken, amiable Jamaican who is the youngest of six sons and whose parents are ministers.
Prayers do not always help when one is pitted against the likes of Bolt. Consistency and serious acceleration is what matters. To say this, however, is to demean Powell, who is second to none but who somehow fails to step up on the big days.
While Powell is faster than the best of them, the term “fast” has suddenly taken on a whole new meaning in the Bolt era. A medal in London could see him make a graceful exit from the sport and he testified: “Yes, I have been running for the past nine years and I still haven’t won an Olympic medal. This is the last opportunity that I am probably going to get at my age and therefore I feel it would be the best time to quit the sport if I fail. It doesn’t get any easier after this.”
The forgotten man is here in London and for one final time he is going to strive for recognition. To do everything it takes in order to remind the world that before a man called Bolt there was a winner called Powell.