Asafa Powell: 'British sprinters are very lazy'

Jamaican has launched a stinging criticism as he prepares to take on this country's fastest men – and his own compatriot Usain Bolt – in the 100m in London tonight
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The Independent Online

Only time will tell whether Asafa Powell can make an impact on Usain Bolt and on the showpiece event on day one of the Aviva London Grand Prix tonight – something less than 9.80sec of time, possibly. The second fastest man in history made his presence felt on a visit to Crystal Palace yesterday, though, proclaiming that he still considered himself to be "the king of the sprint world" and that Britain's speed merchants were not challenging for the crown because they were a bunch of lazy-bones.

"I've said over the years that British sprinters are very lazy and don't really want to practise," Powell said on a visit to the South London track to publicise his appearance in the men's 100m, in which he faces his Jamaican compatriot Bolt, Olympic champion and world record holder at the blue riband distance. "Maybe it's comfort. In Jamaica, you have to work harder for what you want. We have a different mindset. You have to make a living out of it because you don't get a living from anywhere else. You have to go out there and make something of yourself."

The observation will add another ingredient of spice to the recipe of an event that Powell believes could cook up a world record time. In addition to Bolt, the field for the feature race also includes the emerging British sprinter Simeon Williamson, a highly impressive winner of the domestic world championship trials ahead of Dwain Chambers in Birmingham a fortnight ago. In an attempt to make something out of himself in the global sprint game, Williamson went out to Jamaica last winter and spent two months training with Powell under the guidance of the former world record holder's coach, Stephen Francis.

"Simeon came to Jamaica and from what I observed he is a bit lazy," Powell added. "He did well, though. He made a lot of improvements and if he puts in the effort and the hard work there is a lot more to come."

There might well be more to come tonight when Williamson reads the words of his sometime training partner. The Highgate Harrier is looking to break through the 10 seconds barrier – a feat never before achieved on home soil by a British 100m man without illegal wind assistance.

The men's 100m world record has never been broken outright by a sprinter of any nationality on British soil and the big question on the lips of the expected 16,000 capacity crowd in attendance tonight will be whether Bolt can become the first to do so. The world record has been equalled at a British meeting once before. Running at Gateshead in June 2006, Powell clocked 9.77sec, matching the world record figures he had set 12 months previously in Athens.

Time has since moved on for the 100m world record, Bolt running 9.69sec to strike Olympic gold in Beijing last August – and there is a chance that it might do so again at the Palace tonight. Asked whether he would be surprised if the record fell in the London suburb, Powell replied: "No, I wouldn't be surprised, because you'll have guys out there who are capable of doing it. It wouldn't really be a surprise to me."

Wind, rain and cold might well dictate otherwise, but Bolt's prospects of beating the elements will undoubtedly be helped by the presence of his 26-year-old Jamaican team-mate. Powell finished a disappointing fifth in the Olympic final but in the Golden Gala meet in Rome two weeks ago he finished runner-up to Tyson Gay in 9.88sec. Only gay (9.77sec) and Bolt (9.79sec) have recorded faster times for the 100m this summer.

"That time in Rome was my best for the year, and I was running on one leg," Powell said. "I've been really suffering from an ankle injury, trying to get myself back up to 100 per cent, but I think I can go out there tomorrow and do something spectacular. Tyson and Usain have run 9.7sec and that's my aim right now: to get below the 9.8sec mark."

Not that Powell sees himself as the Harry Lime of the 100m – the Third Man to Bolt and Gay. "I'm No 3 in your eyes," he replied yesterday to one questioner who put his global ranking to him, "but I'm No 1 to myself."

Just a year ago – well, a year and two days actually – Powell was No1 and Bolt No 2 in a 100m race in Stockholm. It remains the younger Jamaican's last defeat. Asked how he might strike down the Lightning Bolt again, Powell said: "I just need to run my own race. If I do that, I will beat him and beat the field. I really want to be the king of sprint, because I think I am."

We shall see at the Palace tonight.

Stars in town: Grand Prix highlights

Today

5.50pm – Women's pole vault. Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva returns to the venue where she broke the 5m barrier in 2005.

6.07pm – Women's 400m. Nicola Sanders, runner-up to British team-mate Christine Ohuruogu in the 2007 World Championships, continues her comeback from injury.

7.08pm – Men's triple jump. Phillips Idowu, Belgrave's Olympic silver medallist, will be looking to move up from fifth in the world rankings.

7.24pm – Women's 800m. Eighth in the world rankings, Cornishwoman Jemma Simpson tests her form against British rivals Marilyn Okoro and Jenny Meadows.

7.34pm – Men's 5,000m. Mo Farah attempts to break Dave Moorcroft's 27-year-old British record.

8.17pm – Men's 100m final. Usain Bolt against Asafa Powell. (Heats are at 6.17pm and 6.27pm).

Tomorrow

2.23pm – Men's 200m. A test of fitness and form for Tyson Gay after news of a groin problem for the reigning world 100m and 200m champion.

4.08pm – Women's 5,000m. Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, 5,000m and 10,000m winner in Beijing, tests her form before the World Championships.

4.29pm – Men's 400m. Big race return for Martyn Rooney, hit by injury since finishing sixth in the Olympic final.

5.19pm – Men's 4x100m relay. A final flourish for Usain Bolt in the last event on the programme.

Live coverage on Friday on BBC2 from 6pm and on Saturday from 2.15pm on BBC1

36 years

Since a men's track world record has been broken on British soil – David Bedford in the 10,000m at Crystal Palace in 1973.

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