24 JUL 2006 Preview Stockholm, Sweden

Powell is relaxed and confident, 20 world season leaders descend on Stockholm – DN Galan PREVIEW

Asafa Powell is interviewed in Stockholm (Nesi)Asafa Powell is interviewed in Stockholm (Nesi) © Copyright

Twenty world season leaders will show up at the Stockholm Olympic Stadium on Tuesday (25) for the 40th edition of the DN Galan, a Super Grand Prix meeting, as part of the IAAF World Athletics Tour. The start-list of competitors have between them collected more than a hundred medals at World Championships and Olympic Games.

Powell is in confident mood

Asafa Powell is not only the world fastest man, as one of two record holders for the 100 metres, he was also the first star to meet the media in the Swedish capital. The Jamaican sprinter is in confident mood, and was relaxed as he spoke about his World record race in Gateshead last month, without any signs of anxiety.

“I didn’t have a good start, so I was quite surprised when I saw 9.77 on the clock. I was much more relaxed this time,” said Powell comparing the run to his first world record race, last year in Athens.

“If I can stay relaxed I can go much faster. How fast? Everything humanly possible. I can do the World record even without the help of the wind.”

Powell received the inevitable question of when he will confront Justin Gatlin, who shares the World record with Powell.

“It’s up to him. I’m ready to race him. People all over the world are looking forward to it. Last year I was injured, this year I’m running everywhere,” said Powell who took a look at Tuesday’s start list with respect. “I’ve been running a couple of races against these guys, Tyson Gay, Marcus Brunson, they are good guys. Tyson did 9.88 in Greece (Rethymno on Friday 21 July),” remarked Powell with an expression of admiration.

The stadium record in the Olympic Arena of 1912 is the 9.87 seconds set by Maurice Greene at the meeting in 1999. Anyone who beats the Stadium record at DN-Galan receives a diamond, and Powell replied promptly when he was asked if he found it accomplishable - “Can I have more than one diamond?”

As well as Gay, Powell faces three other Americans with sub-10 clockings in their careers, Brian Lewis, Shawn Crawford and Bernard Williams, and his Jamaican compatriot Michael Frater, the World silver medallist also lines-up. However, perhaps his toughest opponent promises to be Xavier Carter who ran history’s second fastest 200m in Lausanne, 19.63. The “X-Man” hasn’t run quicker than 10.09, but has four straight wins (finals only) at the distance.

See previous story on this sprint duel

World leaders try different distances

In the 200m, Jamaican world season leader Sherone Simpson (22.00) who also heads the world at 100m (10.82) this summer is up against the world number one at 400m Sanya Richards who has dominated the one lap this season. Yet it is good to remember that Richards, the World 400m silver medallist started as a 200 metres runner. She was third at the World Junior Championships in 2002 at the age of 17 and still holds the fastest ever time for a junior indoors. Richards improved her personal best to 22.25 at Gateshead a month ago.

Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele will make his debut in the 1500m. The multiple World champion and World record holder at longer distances made his first appearance at the Mile last winter but was defeated by Bernard Lagat at the Millrose Games, so he has still to prove the same versatility as his predecessor Haile Gebrselassie who managed the 1500-3000m double at the World Indoor Championships seven years ago. Bekele will have a cut-throat competition from acknowledged hard sprinter Ivan Heshko of Ukraine as well as eight Kenyans led by Isaac Songok, the world’s fastest at 3000m this season, and Bekele’s vanquisher over 5000m in Oslo this year.

Defar deserves a diamond

The East Africans’ superiority at long distances is as always even more evident in the men’s 5000m race with twelve Kenyans battling five Moroccans and three Ethiopians. The 5000m has shown an incredible depth this summer during which 17 runners have already broken the 13-minutes barrier. Edwin Soi, barely 20 years, seems the man to beat after his brilliant second place in Paris where only Bekele could surpass him.

In the women’s 3000m, Olympic 5000m champion Meseret Defar shouldn’t have any problems in beating the stadium record of 8:40.76 and earning a diamond.  Her legs should be fresh since her last two outings, 5000 metres races in the IAAF Golden League, have been tactical last lap sprinting affairs. She should also be more than eager for a morale boosting win as both those races ended in narrow losses to World champion Tirunesh Dibaba. Here in Stockholm her nearest rival will be another youngster, Gelete Burka, the World Cross Country champion, who was right behind Defar in Paris and Rome. There is also a mighty Kenyan contingent under the guidance of Priscila Jepleting and Edith Masai, the 39-year-old evergreen national recordholder.

Home victories expected in the jumps

The Swedish audience has a lot to look forward to on the runways and jumping fans of the Olympic stadium on Tuesday.

World champion Kajsa Bergqvist cleared a world leading 2.04m at last weekend’s national championships and made three attempts to break Stefka Kostadinova’s World record of 2.09. She has repeatedly stated that the World record is her goal of the season. Croatia’s Blanca Vlasic, 2.03m this summer, will challenge her.

Olympic gold medallist Stefan Holm also appears to have reached top-form in the mne's High Jump following a long period of technical problems. He leapt to 2.32m in his hometown of Karlstad last Thursday. But Holm is challenged by World Indoor bronze medallist Linus Thörnblad who has beaten Holm several times in 2006. Ivan Ukhov, world leader at 2.33m and his Russian compatriots reigning European Champion Yaroslav Rybakov and Andrei Silnov will also be hard to beat.

Christian Olsson’s incredible return to the Triple Jump has so far brought him six victories. But the Olympic champion’s last defeat was actually at the DN-Galan two years ago. Olsson who was born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, has only won once at DN-Galan. This time he will have to deal with world leader Walter Davis, the World champion, who has jumped 17.71, nine centimetres further than the Swede this year.

Susanna Kallur has emerged as Europe’s leading high hurdler after her Golden League victories in Paris and Rome. Virginia Powell and Brigitte Foster-Hylton still precede the Swede on the year lists and will provide harsh competition.

It won’t be easy for Combined Events queen Carolina Klüft to win the Long Jump as she is up against five of this year’s top athletes and World champion Tianna Madison.

More diamonds to grab

There are several others competitors who lead the world lists and appear to be in a form that won’t deny them the diamond bonuses. World and Olympic 400m champion Jeremy Wariner’s two last races have been sub-44’s, and he is now the fourth fastest of all-time, so the stadium record of 44.57 seems to be heading for a serious upgrade!

Another global championship ace, Yelena Isinbayeva chases her own 4.79m result from last year, and becoming more confident by the day with her new technique the Russian World record holder should have it well within her sights.

Stockholm always presents one of the best Javelin Throw competitions of each summer, and this 40th anniversary edition will be no exception. Yet, Norway’s Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen will have a tough task to beat Steve Backley’s 89.58m, a World record back in 1990.

Lorenzo Nesi for the IAAF

Click here for Preliminary Start List