Asafa Powell proved as good as his word yesterday as he reduced his own world 100 metres record by three hundredths of a second, stopping the clock in his heat at the Rieti grand prix at 9.74 seconds.
After yet another failure in a global event last month, when he could only take bronze at a World Championships, where his main rival Tyson Gay won the 100m and 200m double, the normally laid-back 24-year-old Jamaican maintained with uncharacteristic intensity: "I am going to bounce right back. I am going out there and I am going to give a world record."
A favourable following wind of 1.7 metres per second in Italy, within the legal level of 2.00mps, helped him achieve his target as he became the clear world record holder for the first time.
"It is a very fast record. It is to remind my friends that Asafa is still here," he said before underlining his point by winning the final in 9.78sec. "I've been with my coach and working hard to get back to normal. The last 40 metres were very strong. I executed it and did what I came to do today."
His previous world record mark of 9.77sec, which he recorded three times, was matched once by the Olympic champion Justin Gatlin, albeit that the American's effort was effectively discredited last summer following the positive drug test which has earned him an eight-year suspension pending the result of arbitration.
Powell has had at least a share of the world record since 14 June, 2005, when he ran in Athens and broke the mark of 9.79sec set on the same track six years earlier by Maurice Greene of the United States. A year later the Jamaican admitted he was stunned to hear that his rival Gatlin, who had beaten him to the Olympic title in 2004, had recorded 9.76sec in Doha, although that time was rounded up to 9.77 after a timekeeping error had been detected.
Less than a month later the Jamaican chose a sun-scorched Gateshead of all places to repeat his record performance, and recorded 9.77sec again in the 100m heats at last year's Zurich Weltklasse meeting.
Now, however, the man who never seems to be able to win the big championships has established himself indisputably as the fastest man on earth. And if his run in Rieti was anything to go by, he could soon be running even more swiftly as, despite his post-race contention, he appeared to ease off before the line. Well, it was only a heat.
Powell admitted in Osaka that he had effectively given up third place to the Bahamian Derrick Atkins after Gay had passed him. "When Tyson came on and gave me a little bit of pressure I just panicked," he said. " When I saw I wasn't in gold medal contention, I gave up in the middle of the race. I just stopped running."
The bronze he took in Japan was the latest in a series of disappointments at major championships, despite the fact that he took the Commonwealth title in 2006. Powell was disqualified in the quarter-finals at the 2003 World Championships. The following year he finished fifth behind Gatlin at the Athens Olympics, his only defeat of the season in the only race that really mattered.
After he became the world record holder in 2005, a groin injury prevented him contesting the World Championships in Helsinki, where Gatlin won the 100m-200m double. Powell is only the fourth non-American to hold the world 100 metres record since 1912 and the first since the Jamaican-born Canadian Donovan Bailey clocked 9.84 sec in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic final.
Speed Kings: Record progression
10.0 Armin Hary (W Ger) 21 June 1960.
9.99 Jim Hines (US) 20 June 1968.
9.95 Hines 14 Oct 1968.
9.93 Calvin Smith (US) 3 July 1983.
9.92 Carl Lewis (US) 24 Sept 1988.
9.90 Leroy Burrell (US) 14 June 1991.
9.86 Lewis 25 Aug 1991.
9.85 Burrell 6 July 1994.
9.84 Donovan Bailey, (Can) 27 July 1996.
9.79 Maurice Greene (US) 16 June 1999.
9.77 Asafa Powell (Jam) 14 June 2005.
9.77 Justin Gatlin (US) 12 May 2006.
9.77 Powell 11 June 2006.
9.77 Powell 18 Aug 2006.
9.74 Powell 9 Sept 2007.Reuse content