By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published May 18, 2015
Over the past few weeks, I’ve wrestled not with writer’s block, but a writer’s floodgate of sports stories I’m itching to comment or write on. The cupboard is overflowing with opinions I’d like to share. IPL/T20 cricket versus Test Cricket; The Narine Conspiracy; West Indies 16th win against a top-7 team in Test cricket in 15 years; a West Indies four-prong spin attack; Kevin Pietersen’s death, burial, and incarceration with Andrew Strauss now director of English cricket; and Chanderpaul’s pending retirement. Some of these might intrigue you; others are pure madness in your eyes.
Acclaimed author Marjorie Holmes once said and I’ll paraphrase, a writer is never out of ideas and stories to write, they are everywhere, all around us, it’s just for us to focus these ideas and write. I doubt I am a writer, but let’s see what I can concoct out of this mathematical maze in my mind today. Like many Jamaicans’, my attention has sharpened once again to one of our beloved sons, Asafa Powell.
ASAFA IS BACK
The first time Asafa Powell confiscated my attention was at the 2003 World Championships in “The City of Lights”, Paris. He ran the fastest time in the 100m heats, 10.05, beating the eventual world champion, Kim Collins, in that heat and beating Collins’ time that won the final, 10.07. Asafa should have exploded like a supernova in that Championship. However, he was disqualified in the quarterfinals with infamous Jon Drummond when both athletes false started. I said to my aunt in her living room then with eagle eyes into my crystal ball, “He is one to look out for in the future”.
12 years later, Asafa has gone through a myriad of crests and troughs on the track, with the fans, coaches, trainers, and anti-doping regulatory bodies. In religious circles, 12 signify completeness. During my reading, I found out that in the mystical tarot world, 12 signify “The Hanged Man”. Asafa has been “hanged” figuratively and verbally many times by disappointed fans after his performances in major championships. Albeit, “The Hanged Man” in tarot circles represents “the completed cycle of experience, accumulating unusual inner strength through many and varied circumstances. You may be hindered by old habits that need to be changed. However, a reversal of negative thoughts can bring about very favourable and positive effects, and can aid in achieving their goals and aspirations.”
While reading this I thought maybe, just maybe, this is the year of Asafa Powell. He is at this crossroads in his career. His blistering 9.84 run in Kingston on May 9, 2015 was his fastest run in 5 years. We have seen this before, some will say, blistering form early in the season, followed by injuries and disappointing performances, later in the year at World Championships or Olympics. However, this time something is different.
Seven years ago, Usain Bolt shocked the world in supernova-like proportions. First in Kingston, with a 9.76 s run, followed with the eclipsing of Asafa’s world record with a 9.72 s gallop in New York, and concluded by a showman performance in 9.69 s in Beijing. Seven years ago, the expectations for an Asafa’s crowning moment were never higher. However, in the Olympic 100m final, they never materialized, even though he had beaten Bolt prior the Olympics in Switzerland.
Nevertheless, I have a feeling, more a fan’s hope that under his brother, Donovan Powell’s tutelage, he can redeem himself. Will this year be the year Asafa rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes and gain new life? I think it will be, and coincidentally the World Championships this year is in Beijing.
A few weeks ago, I revisited my old Chemistry Research Lab of 8-11 years ago. The walls were still covered with newspaper full-page prints of Asafa’s World record runs; 9.77 s in 2005 in Athens; 9.77 s in 2006 at Gateshead; and 9.74 s (in the heats) in 2007 in Rieti. Even though he is called the “sub-10 King” and he has produced several world record runs, Asafa is famous for purposely decelerating 10-20 metres before the finishing line, as he did in his last world record run. So much so, I believe it became embedded in his consciousness or DNA. However, a few nights ago, Asafa under new management, hit the line with a crescendo force at the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) Invitational Meet. No slowing up. He bounced to the line, with renewed vigour, in the last 20 metres: a radical change in the last phase of most of his races from the past.
I recall 3-4 occasions that he ran similarly, full tilt to the line. At Athens, in 2005, he flew through the tape for his first world record. In 2007, at Reiti, in the finals after breaking the world record in the heats, he pushed with no wind assistance to 9.78. At the time, one of the best wind adjusted times. Lastly, after disappointing in the 100m finals in Beijing, he produced a flat-out sonic boom leg in the 4 x 100m finals to set Jamaica’s first world record in the 4 x 100m, 37.10s. Asafa wanted redemption, he wanted to win for the fans, he wanted a gold medal and oh yes, his name beside another world record.
For me, it’s evident from his run at the JAAA Invitational Meet that Asafa wants that all again. No doubt, from how the fans reacted in the packed National Stadium, they want it too. The only question is, will Donovan be the man who gets Asafa’s mind and body right, to deliver. I think this time he will. I think this time is different. Like Asafa’s registration number at the JAAA Invitational Meet hinted, I believe at the World Championships we might finally get the long-awaited Jamaica 1-2-3 with Asafa.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
From the “Lies & Statistics” Column in the Western Mirror (Published Monday, May 18, 2015)