Athletics: Powell announces return to fast lane with golden stroll
Tuesday 21 March 2006
The fastest man on the planet got back to work in one of the world's finest stadiumsyesterday. And for Asafa Powell, the world 100-metres record holder, earning a first major championship title after a lengthy absence from competition proved to be a stroll in Melbourne Park.
The 23-year-old Jamaican, who missed last year's World Championships with a groin injury, won the Commonwealth gold as he pleased on a chilly evening in 10.03sec, the same time he needed to progress from a semi-final marred by the disqualification for false starts of his colleague Michael Frater and - calamitously for England - Mark Lewis-Francis.
There were mutterings of dubious practice circulating after the Australian sprinter Patrick Johnson provoked the first false start which meant that any subsequent lapses would result in expulsion. First to fall foul of a rule which divides opinion within the sprinting world was Frater, who took the world silver behind Powell's biggest rival, Justin Gatlin, last summer.
Soon Lewis-Francis (pictured below) was joining him in front of the outfield barrier, pacing in frustration. Clearly there is something about the Commonwealth Games that does not agree with this 23-year-old former world junior champion - in Manchester four years ago he was the joint favourite to win the 100m but pulled up halfway down the track with a hamstring injury. What happened to him here was less traumatic but enough to leave a dent in his bright new outlook since joining Tony Lester's coaching group at the end of last season and shedding a considerable amount of weight.
Before presenting himself in front of the gathered media, Lewis-Francis stopped to speak with his agent in the stands. Suitably advised, he stood with his arms behind his back, shifting from foot to foot as he tried to explain a turn of events which recalled his experience at the 2004 European Cup, when he also false-started and failed to collect the points that would have guaranteed Britain victory.
"I'm gutted," he said. "When Frater did his false start it kind of rucked me ... it was a bit cold out there ... really I haven't got any answers..." He agreed with the suggestion that the false-start ruling was flawed. "It makes no sense. The first false start was ridiculous - and it sets off a trigger."
England had already lacked their team captain, Jason Gardener, who went out in the second round and has now gone home for treatment on a back injury. Only Marlon Devonish, whose main event here is the 200m, flew the flag in the final - and he admitted that he had "bottled" his run after finishing last in 10.30sec in a race where silver went to Nigeria's Soji Fasuba in 10.11sec and bronze to Marc Burns, of Trinidad, in 10.17sec.
Powell was open about the fact that he was only interested in doing enough to secure the reward he needed from a major championship following last year's frustration and the disappointment of his Olympic performance, when he finished fifth a couple of months after reducing the world record to 9.77sec on the same Athens track.
Asked if it had been easy, he grinned and said: "Yes. Maybe easier than it looked. I could have done maybe 9.8-something tonight. But it is early in the season, and I didn't want to push it. I'm really happy that I am getting back to my old self. People have been saying that there may be a curse on me, that I can't get a major title. Now I have proved to the world I can do it. I've got the experience now and I'm ready to go faster."
Dean Macey, seeking the first gold medal of an injury-ravaged career, reached the halfway point of the decathlon with a 187-point lead over the home athlete Jason Dudley. But after nursing himself through a first day when he only really opened up in the shot putt, where he set a personal best of 15.83m, the Canvey Islander, 28, said: "I'm happy so far, but I don't remember a decathlon hurting so early."
England secured its third track-and-field medal - and third bronze - of the Games through the defending hammer champion Lorraine Shaw, who produced a final flourish of 66m before announcing her retirement.
Craig Mottram's attempt to win a 5,000m-1500m double foundered as he had to settle for silver in the longer distance. The Australian saw off the challenge of Kenya's world champion, Benjamin Limo, but another Kenyan, Augustine Chogo, got him in the back straight, finishing in a Games record of 12min 56.41sec.
A day after seeing their marathon runner Kerryn McCann overcome a Kenyan challenge over the final 400m, the MCG crowd were denied a repeat performance - and the relative silence was deafening.
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