Melbourne, AustraliaAsafa Powell struggled at training yesterday as he bids to beat the clock in his race to recover from a cut knee in time to compete in the 100m in the Melbourne Grand Prix, as the World Athletics Tour resumes this Thursday night.
The world record-holder fell in the stairs at his home in Jamaica and needed four stitches to his left knee the day before he was due to fly to Australia.
He was forced out of last weekend’s Sydney Grand Prix but with the stitches now removed, he ran 20 run-throughs over 100m in Melbourne on Monday and was moving freely towards the end of the light comeback session.
But the after-effect of bending his knee, much less running, after nine days with stitches restricting him told on the world’s fastest man and he was in pain this morning even before he returned to the track.
“There is some inflammation inside (the knee) so we just have to get rid of that,” Powell said today, still determined to compete on Thursday night despite lengthening odds against it.
Athletics Australia track agent Maurie Plant, who has escorted Powell and his MVP squad while in Australia, admitted: “When I saw him train on Monday I was very encouraged and would have said he was 80 per cent likely to race on Thursday but after the Tuesday session he had a bit of trouble from the knee and I’d rate him 30 per cent chance of starting.
“However, Asafa is very serious about it. He wants to race this Thursday and he’s got some serious anti-inflammatory for his knee and he’s going to have another bash at it in the morning (Wednesday).”
Powell explained that while it was the most important season of his career, it was also a long season and he said “so if I’m feeling unbearable pain I will pull out”.
“I’m getting better day by day and this morning it looked a lot better than yesterday, but it felt worse. We will see how it goes in the morning but this is not a year to risk it,” Powell added.
Wariner ready for 400m debut
Attention now has focussed on Jeremy Wariner who will open his 400m campaign on Thursday, with Australian titleholder and Osaka World championship semi-finalist Sean Wroe expected to give him a close run.
Only one Australian, Robert Stone in the summer of 1989-1990, has ever broken 45sec in Melbourne and Wroe hopes to be the next man. He finished full of running to win the Sydney 400m last Saturday in 45.84 but is hopeful of improving on his personal best of 45.25 set in Osaka.
Wariner’s training partner Darold Williamson, an Athens Olympic relay gold medallist, and Australia’s Clinton Hill, who anchored the Athens Olympic silver medal winning 4x400m team, are also in the race.
Unfortunately another young Australian, Joel Milburn, 21, who clocked a breakthrough 45.19 in Sydney on 9 February, has withdrawn from Melbourne after further study of scans of his painful right knee indicate a low grade tear of a tendon.
“The Australian team doctor Tim Barbour and physiotherapist Brent Kirkbride think if I’m careful with it now it will be 100 per cent alright by the time of the Australian championships (28 Feb- 2 March),” Milburn said.
Wariner was pressed for speed when he was beaten over 200m in Sydney, but his extensive tempo training at the moment suggests he will offer a much more difficult target to shoot down in the 400m when he will be able to relax into that killer rhythm which typifies his best one-lap performances.
“It’s a new year and training has been really good so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do,” Wariner said at a Melbourne luncheon yesterday hosted by John Landy, the former Governor of the state of Victoria and history’s second sub four minute miler.
“That’s my goal every time I’m on the track – to run fast.
“Hopefully on Thursday I’ll break 45 seconds for the third year in a row (in his opening 400m of the season).”
Local focus on Hooker, Mottram
Pole vaulter Steve Hooker, who recently cleared six metres during a Perth interclub meet, and distance runner Craig Mottram will shoulder Australian expectations.
Mottram was disappointed by the late withdrawal of Tariku Bekele whose Ethiopian federation ordered him to remain in Europe and prepare for the World Indoor championships in Valencia, Spain, from 7-9 March.
After breaking his own national indoor 3000m record and clocking the fastest indoor time on US boards in Boston three weeks ago, Mottram looks ready to dominate Thursday’s 5000m despite the presence of Abreham Cherkos, the world’s second fastest junior last year, plus a squad of good Kenyans and Tanzanians.
Mike Hurst (Sydney Daily Telegraph) for the IAAF