Asafa Powell is one of the most talented athletes in the history of track and field. He is also one of the most unfortunate. For all this sublime talent Powell has had a history of tripping up at major championships – the World Championships and the Olympic Games.

In 2003, Powell, then an unknown, was in the process of making his way through the rounds of the men’s 100 metres at the World Championships in Paris, France. He then ended up in a quarter-final with the American ‘Clown Prince’ Jon Drummond, who false started and created much drama in being ejected. During a protracted process where he argued his case to track-side officials that he had not false started he eventually lay flat on his back and refused to leave the track. After what seemed like forever, Drummond realized his time-wasting antics were not going to get him re-instated and he decided to leave the track and allow the race to proceed. As the race was about to be re-started, Asafa Powell was getting ready to get back to his blocks when he discovered to great personal shock and disappointment that he too had been disqualified for false starting even though it was evident that he reacted to Drummond’s premature reaction to the gun.

In subsequent major championships Powell would continue to suffer. In the Olympic finals 2004, performance anxiety caused him to finish fifth. In 2005, a groin injury kept him out of the World Champs in Helsinki. In 2007, performance anxiety again caused him to finish third after he was leading with 20 metres to go in the finals of the 100 metres. And in 2008, injury and perhaps performance anxiety resulted in another fifth-place finish.

2011 and Powell is the favorite to take the 10o-title in Daegu, South Korea, and about 48 hours before he was to start competing the world heard that he had withdrawn from the championships because of a groin injury. Based on his history at major competitions many people just assumed that this was another situation where Powell was demonstrating that he did not have the stomach for the spotlight at international competitions. The frustration and disappointment once again became evident among Powell’s legion of fans even as the jokes came fast from his growing number of detractors. It seems that once again Powell’s reputation had taken another major blow and his love hate relationship with fans was plunging rapidly into another ‘hate’ phase.

This time, however, the 28-year-old former world record holder – in my opinion – has to share the blame with his handlers who continue to blunder.

Powell developed an injury to his groin in Rabat on July 30. He was to have competed at the Aviva London Diamond League meet on August 5. In the days leading up to the race Powell talked about a storm only for British newspapers to report on the day he was down to run, that he was withdrawing from the meet because of tightness in his groin. That was supposed to be his last race before the world championships that began on August 27. In between, media across the world published stories suggesting that Powell was saying he was confident of winning, that he was ready to step out of Usain Bolt’s shadow, that he had overcome his mental issues and it was now his time to shine. Because of the media storm it came as a shock to many that Powell was withdrawing from what could be one of his last major championships.

Powell turns 29 in November and many experts don’t see him competing well past the Olympics in London in 2012 and the World Championships in Russia in 2013. He could decide to continue on beyond that but with Bolt being four years younger and continuing to be dominant, and with upcoming stars like Yohan Blake and Nesta Carter as well as others getting better every day, it could well force Powell to walk away from the sport that has brought him so much fame and fortune and becoming the grease monkey he has always wanted to be.

However, had his handlers moved to check the hype he was building around his potential match up with Bolt, considering that they knew how delicate his situation was, a lot of the speculation about the ‘real’ reason why Powell withdrew could have been averted. A statement outlining the nature of Powell’s injury, the treatment he was receiving and expected recovery time would have helped put things into perspective and diffused some of the over-hype. Bruce James the president of the MVP Track Club, the club with which Powell has been associated for almost a decade, unsuccessfully tried to explain to the media locally that their decision to keep Powell’s injury a secret was an attempt to protect the athlete from public scrutiny and to prevent him from being at a disadvantage to his rivals.

That might have been their intention but what they ended up doing was further damaging the athlete’s reputation because the speculation over his withdrawal is now rampant with people forming their own truths about Powell. And what exactly would be the disadvantage of his rivals knowing he is hurt? In Berlin in 2009, the world knew of Tyson Gay’s torn-up groin. Exactly which athlete other than Usain Bolt could have taken advantage of that? Seriously, why all the secrecy?

It is clear that Powell’s management does not learn from past mistakes. It was only a couple of season’s ago that Powell and some of his MVP teammates were being used to promote the Utech Classic track meet that was being held at the national stadium. Either on the day of the meet or sometime before Powell hurt his ankle and was unable to compete, but instead of coming clean about the athlete’s status, his handlers continued to keep his injury a secret. Fans were so incensed they flooded the airwaves and print media with angry rants about what they believed to be an obvious deception aimed at luring them to attend the meet. Eventually, the Fair Trading Commission decided to investigate and word is Utech marginally escaped being fined a sizable sum of money.

This time the damage could be far more severe for an athlete whose image has already taken too many hits. Meet promoters might start thinking twice about inviting Powell to meets fearing their reputations being compromised by an unreliable athlete, who it could be perceived feigns injuries. I mean, if his handlers continue to hide the truth, as was the case this time, who knows when people will stop believing the athlete and, more importantly, stop believing in him in instances when people really need to understand the difference between when he is really hurt and when the spotlight begins to make him nauseous.

As Dr. Paul Wright correctly stated on radio recently Powell is a national treasure and should be treated as such. What his handlers have been doing has been nothing short of disgraceful.

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  1. Its true powell should have gotten a new managemant team also a new coach a long time ago but he is too stuck in his comfort zone he seems to think he is obligated to who he has ties with so much that he may think to cut ties with what is not working for you would be injustice take a page from the great veronica campbell brown who knows if it dont work time for a change you are the one with the talent they did not give it to you time for a change

  2. ingrid Green says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  3. Lorenzo says:

    It’s time for powell to dump his trainers and handlers. In my opinion I believe he should get Maurice Greene to be his trainer.

  4. Keith Brown says:

    Indeed, meet promoters may want to shy away from inviting Asafa Powell to anymore activities. Powell reminds me of a long ago cricketer, Easton McMorris who will do well until its test cricket time. Powell has become a disgrace to the sport. Let him do the 4X100 relay where it is not individual.

  5. Keith Brown says:

    Indeed, meet promoters may want to shy away from inviting Asafa Powell to anymore activities. Powell reminds me of a long ago cricketer, Easton McMorris, West Indies opening batsman, who will do well in county and other local cricket games until its test cricket time where he fails miserably. Powell cannot rise to the big occasions and has become a disgrace to the sport. Let him do the 4X100 relay where it is not individual.

  6. The Athlete says:

    Mr Levy, I agree with you, however, the Asafa Powell saga is not about Asafa alone. The entire MVP is a big mess. Who is handling their PR? It is clearly obvious now that the management of MVP knew the exact nature of Asafa’s conditon and the likelihood of him not being able to run, long before arrival in Daegu. Why did they send him to Daegu? In their quest for a big medal haul, was the JAAA a party to this selfish decision? I hope not.

    It also makes you wonder who runs the club when the President of MVP, Bruce James, is kept in the dark, on more than one occasion, with respect to not only Asafa’s fitness, but with respect to other athletes in his club. He never knows. Instead of being on TVJ with his pompous attitude he should be in Daegu with his athletes so that he is aware of their fitness. Why is this not the case? Any condemnaton that comes down on Asafa’s head because of this debacle should really be aimed at the management of MVP.

  7. Gerald Williams says:

    I believe that Stephen Francis is a good coach but like most coaches after a while the true coach is put aside to facilitate the athlete. We know the potential of Asafa Powell as well as Mr. Francis but he should know by now that shouting and being loud mouth is not the best way to coach. Your charges are your life line to the sports that you are in and as such you ought to be the decision maker and not just the facilitator.
    I was not too impressed when Powell reduce his body weight, wrong move. What Powell needed was to get his mind or mental capacity focussed on running the race he knows he can run.
    A little more astute handling of your athletes Mr. Francis and do not go thumping your chest about the number of MVP athlete at the games. You are fortunate to get some of the best talent that Jamaica has to offer; use those talents wisely and astutely.
    I believe there is much more to Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce but she also must want it and not just be satisfied with being Olympic and World Champion. Once the event is over, it is starting fresh and correct mistakes and iron out faults. This goes for all athletes.

  8. Lorenzo says:

    If Asafa Powell at the age of 28yrs old cannot see that he has been mishandled by his trainer or coach, as well as his agent.
    Then he [Powell] cannot blame anyone for his demise, but himself. Unless he want to continue taking advise from his management to feign or fake groin injury. If he had groin injury from 2003 to 2011 and it is not taken care of, who are they trying to fool. When he injured his shoulder in the weights room he went to Dr. Andrews to get it fix.
    Mmmmm!!! 48 hours before the meet he withdrawn and then comtemplating running relay, “com’on mon be real” stop trying to fool the world and the Jamaican people.

  9. glen says:

    Asafa need to change couch and handlers.You can’t be doing the same thing and expect a different result

  10. Alex Cooke says:

    Your article is ‘spot on’ about Asafa. However it stops short of identifying glaring management missteps. Asafa by admission is a lazy athlete, as a consequence he should be pushed to run 200 meters competitively. This would clearly provide more stamina for him to run the various rounds in the Worlds and Olympics. Also notice that he usually does well in the Diamond league and other money meets worldwide. The real question is, ‘Is Asafa mercenary, lazy or both. We should also not forget that Asafa should be getting psychological coaching, this another management failure.

  11. mike says:

    To this, my comment is loud and clear(LEAVE MVP AND HOOK UP W/ BOLT AND HIS COACH) You have a short time left, and he can stir you to the Olympics in good health. This not or have anything to do with your current club but all about your life. Listen drop that baton and pickup a new one.
    Love you Asafa.

    Like you have said its your time now, then prove it.

  12. James Dunaway says:

    It is unethical, and cowardly, to publish this kind of attack without the writer’s name. If you don’t have the balls to sign your name to a piece like this, you shouldn’t publish it.

    James Dunaway, Editor
    American Track & Field

  13. Debbie says:

    Ahh boy. I will never understand Powell and as I am not a competitor it doesn’t even make sense to try to think about or understand in his mental status when he is to compete. Is it that his focus is on individual money making competitions only. Anyway, he has been competing long enough now to have developed the mental strength to compete. As a special friend of mine says, Asafa is a great competitor when there is no one running beside him and that he should run in blinders (like horses do). Perhaps an option to consider now, as he is an ‘old’ athlete now and unless he has Merline Ottey’s stamina, I doubt he can compete for much longer. Good luck Asafa or I wish you lots of whatever it is you need to perform at the top like your talent deserves.

  14. Fitz says:

    I hope readers will see the sense in this article and tone down on the insensitive aspersions. We can cedrtainly express our concerns without tearing down our star because anyway you take it it’s still “Jamaica, land we love”. Eternal Father bless our land …

  15. Dennis says:

    Asafa Powell is 29 yrs old. Handlers or not at this point in his carrier he is responsible for his actions. If his handlers are to be blamed, Asafa needs to fire them. Simple.
    I use to be one of his supporters but no more. All the fame and notoriety he has earned and showered onto Jamaica has been wiped clean with his behaviour over the past 3-4 years. He needs to see a psychiatrist.

  16. soda says:

    Powell is still my favorite male track athlete. Not every will win. He is just a simple guy

  17. c blake says:

    Asafa is tremendous athlete who I think is defeating himself. This national treasure, as he is supposed to be, should take a page out of VCBs book, think about where he is at and what he wants to do, carry on or retire still on top. You just cant blame injuries two days before a major meet or running very poorly like you have never done throughout the whole season. For such a decorated athlete he has got to call time on chickening out when it matters most. You dont want to be remembered as such.

  18. steve mckoy says:

    Asafa ought to have switched to Glen Mills a long time ago. With his natural ability and Glen’s phenomenal capacity to get the best from his athletes, Asafa would have been a world away from doubts and niggling injuries long ago. Its not too late Safa… do whats in your bst interest man… make the switch. You have to do something different to get a different result!! As a past student of the “Sprint Factory” Camperdown I know this -Coach Mills has consistently taken persons of less than average confidence and competence and made them champions over and over and get my point. He has simply transferred this ability to a higher level at Racers. Asafa would really not be a significant challenge. Make the change now Safa!

  19. Vicky says:

    Asafa can be a great track and field star but first he has to overcome that anxiety/fear factor. He needs to believe more in himself that he has all the capabilities beyond his belief. With his past performances, it is very hard to still be his fan but i have faith in him because we have love as Jamaicas.

  20. Vicky says:

    Asafa can be a great track and field star but first he has to overcome that anxiety/fear factor. He needs to believe more in himself that he has all the capabilities beyond his belief. With his past performances, it is very hard to still be his fan but i have faith in him because we have love as Jamaicans.


  22. P Murphy says:

    According to the Irish press his injuries have been treated by two Irish therapists with no formal qualifications. This was organised by his manager Paul Doyle.

  23. John says:

    If the man suffers from performance anxiety isnt that his job to go and talk to a sports psychologist or another trained professional to get him fixed up?? You cannot say he was handled poorly…for me powell is wasted potential

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23 comments so far
levyl Posted by: levyl August 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm