Melbourne, AustraliaAfter a troubled buildup to his first 100m race of the year Jamaica’s Asafa Powell won easing up in 10.04sec and started World record talk at the Melbourne Grand Prix on Thursday.
The IAAF World Athletics Tour resumed in style with American Jeremy Wariner opening the defence of his Olympic 400m title with a superb 44.82 in his first lap of the 2008 season, while local heroes Scott Martin smashed the Australian record with a Shot Put of 21.27m and Craig Mottram finished strongly to win over 5000m in 13:11.99 from a good international field.
For Powell, a cautious cruise
The World 100m record-holder (at 9.74), Powell came to Australia with four stitches closing a deep gash in his left knee, consequence of a fall in the stairs at his home, rushing because he was running late for training a day before flying to Melbourne.
It is tempting to think that a stitch in time did indeed save nine – at least 9.9 – because Powell jumped from the blocks somewhat cautiously and eased up 10m from the line mindful of his wounded knee. The stitches were extracted only last Saturday night and he made the decision to compete after completing a careful warmup without too much inconvenience.
It is also tempting fate to suggest that Powell’s victory in Melbourne mirrors the start he had to his perfect season in 2006 when he won his only tournament gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March with a winning time of 10.03 and went on to run a world record of 9.77 which he then equalled in completing an undefeated year at 100m.
But of course that is in some part why Powell’s coach, Stephen Francis, brought his MVP squad back to where it all started in their most successful year, when Powell’s training partner Sherone Simpson also began by winning Commonwealth gold and finished 2006 ranked the world’s No.1 female 100m performer.
Powell – ‘This proves I’m way faster than 2006’
Don’t think of it as superstition; call it intelligent planning . . . and call Powell to account for his shock third behind American Tyson Gay and Asafa’s cousin from the Bahamas, Derrick Atkins, in the dramatic 100m final at the World championships in Osaka last August.
“It’s very important (running in Australia) for my training,” Powell, 25, said last night. “I came to Australia to train and race and my training wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t run here.
“This proves I’m way faster than 2006. I haven’t done anything in two weeks (due to the knee injury); 10.04 is very impressive.
“This year I’m way, way stronger than the last few years, so I am not worried about anything too much. I’ve just got to stay on the track and not watch from the sidelines.”
To the question: what message do you have for your rivals, Powell said: “Come out and do your best because this year is nothing like last year.”
Powell added that he was surprised by his fast time – which broke the 10.06 meet record set a decade ago - and predicted he would again break the world record in 2008. “That is within my reach,” he replied firmly. “I think I can grab it and put it behind me and that is what I am going to do.”
Another measure of Powell’s progress after last year losing blocks of training and racing to knee and groin injuries was his superiority over training partner Michael Frater who ran 10.25 into a cool 0.2m/s breeze with Matt Shirvington the first Australian to cross the finish in 10.35.
44.82 opener for Wariner
Perhaps no less impressive last night was Jeremy Wariner who shrugged off suggestions that his defeat over 200m in last Saturday’s Sydney Grand Prix (runner-up in 20.93 to Daniel Batman’s 20.81) may be a harbinger of trouble ahead for his 400m.
But Wariner predicted he would open with a sub-45 for the third year in a row and, like a slave to the rhythm, he set up a tempo which no-one else could tolerate, winning in 44.82 from Australia’s Athens Olympic silver medal relay anchor Clinton Hill (45.78, season’s best) and Australian titleholder Sean Wroe (45.88) with 2005 World championship finalist and Wariner training partner Darold Williamson fourth in 45.95.
Wariner needed medical treatment after the race for dehydration, but commented: “I had a great race today. I got to see where I was in my training and now I go back and rest for a couple of days and then get back on the grind.
“This is a really fast start for me this early in February.”
21.27m Area record for Martin
Australians know Scott Martin as the shaven-headed young giant in tights taking ballet lessons to help his discus throwing in a television advertisement campaign leading up to the Melbourne Commonwealth Games where he did indeed win the discus throw.
Well on Thursday, despite a preparation interrupted by a chronic foot injury, Martin put on an unexpected turn with a difference, rotating into an explosive release of the shot to break Justin Anlezark’s five-year-old national record of 20.96m. Martin’s previous best was 20.63m but after an inauspicious start with throws of 19.95m and 20.19m the Victorian unleashed a third-round breakthrough of 21.27m.
Queenslander Anlezark, for so long struggling to overcome a finger injury, finished second with 19.68m in a much-improved performance.
Ethiopia’s jet-lagged Abreham Feleke, despite having checked into his hotel room only at 4am the day before the Melbourne meet, set the pace in last night’s 5000m before being cut down on the last lap by Australia’s Craig Mottram and Kenya’s Shadrack Kosgei.
Pre-selected for the Beijing team Mottram had no reason to work for speed this early in the Olympic year so he should be well pleased with his win which came in 13:11.99, second fastest he has ever clocked at home behind the 12:58.19 for silver at the Commonwealth Games two years ago behind Augustine Choge.
“I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent as I should be; I’m as strong as I’ve ever been but not as smooth as I can be,” Mottram said.
“You’ve got to stay calm and realise that even though there’s seven athletes with you, there’s not necessarily going to be seven at the bell lap. I felt calm, relaxed. With three laps to go I was working pretty solidly, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been dropped in a 5k and it wasn’t going to happen tonight.”
In other impressive performances: Sydney’s Lachlan Renshaw ran an Olympic A-qualifying time in winning the 800m in 1:45.79, while 800m specialist Tamsyn Lewis ran an A-qualifier in winning the 400m in 51.55 from Jamaican Sherone Simpson (51.74).
China’s Aimin Song won the Discus Throw with a toss of 63.06m from Australia’s World Junior champion Dani Samuels (61.92m, A-qualifier), South African Renee Kalmer won the 1500m in 4:09.83 and Tasmania’s Donna MacFarlane won the 3000m steeplechase in an Olympic A-time of 9:29.93 from China’s Zhenzhu Li (9:56.73). Australia’s 6-metre man, Steve Hooker, pole vaulted 5.82m and America’s Mike Hazle won the javelin with 80.84m.
Mike Hurst for the IAAF