Athletics: Powell remains long-sighted

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THE high point of Saturday's Pearl International Games in Glasgow came four minutes too late for ITV viewers, but it was perfectly timed for Mike Powell.

No matter that the cameras were no longer beaming out live when the world champion and record- holder jumped 8.36 metres, a British all-comers' record, at his last attempt; it was a performance which provided the ideal start to a season which he believes will see him become the first man in history to jump further than 30 feet.

Things are flowing well for this sparky individual whose fluent discourse is punctuated by high-pitched, girlish giggles. But for all his upbeat charm, Powell enters this season with just a little iron in his soul. After the heady achievement of the world championships in Tokyo, where he slew the myth of Carl Lewis's invulnerability and broke the world record which had stood in Bob Beamon's name since 1968, he has experienced some of life's slings and arrows.

A hamstring injury in May diminished his powers. By July he recorded 8.99m at altitude in Sestriere; it was four centimetres beyond his world mark in Tokyo, but an illegal following wind rendered it ineligible.

That disappointment was as nothing, however, compared with the experience of the Barcelona Olympics the next month where he responded to a mighty leap by Lewis only to see his effort fall short by three centimetres. Two weeks ago came a report claiming that the track on which he had set his world record in Tokyo had been harder than was allowable within International Amateur Athletic Federation rules thus providing an advantage for sprinters and jumpers.

Powell has responded to that report with a mixture of dismissiveness and irritation. 'It doesn't make a difference to me,' he said. 'Although I am relieved that the IAAF is not considering reviewing the record. I jumped 8.95 in Tokyo. That was done. And if there were ever any doubts about the legitimacy I will put that right this year.'

Obviously he wants to be the first man over 30 feet, but he is aware that Lewis, who strove for 10 years to beat Beamon's mark of 8.90 (29ft 2 1/2in), might be the one to do it.

Powell, whose agent, Brad Hunt, is one of the leading critics of the IAAF's decision not to award prize-money at this year's world championships, has understandably not yet committed himself to competing in Stuttgart. But he is likely to meet Lewis in Las Vegas on 29 May for a head-to- head challenge for American cable television which will bring him pounds 250,000 in appearance money.

Powell does not pretend any great friendship with the man who has won the last three Olympic long jump titles - 'Carl's OK. He's not my buddy' - and he accepts that he worked to build up negative feelings about him during their encounters in Tokyo and Barcelona. 'Carl's a great athlete. It took a world record to beat him in Tokyo, one which people were saying couldn't be broken. In order to get the most out of competition against Carl I had to bring up everything I have against him. Whatever got my motivation going, I was going to use it.' He paused, then added: 'And still will, too.' Las Vegas should be something.

Results, Sport in Short, page 27