This is a story on Asafa Powell, the former world record holder in the 100 meters and a man who has run under 10 seconds for 100 meters nearly 100 times. This was originally published in January 2022.
Asafa Powell has been breaking ten seconds for 100 meters for nearly 20 years. The standard of ten seconds for the 100 meters is one litmus test of whether a sprinter is just fast or is truly world-class. Asafa Powell has gone under 10 seconds ninety-seven times!
I first saw Asafa Powell compete in 2003, I believe. His interviews are relaxed, and Asafa has a sense of humor and irony. What makes him superhuman? He has done what no other human being has come close to, running 100 times in under 10 seconds ( I believe the next in line is at about 64 times).
Enjoy Deji Ogeyingbo’s assessment of this Jamaican superstar!
And watch Asafa Powell get to 100 subs in ten seconds and 100 meters in 2022!
The Asafa Powell Story- How he became a sub-10 specialist
In the end, humans will be remembered for something they did that changed the world, no matter how small, for good or bad.
For professional sports, athletes can be remembered for various reasons after they retire. Be it Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring a screamer or a trademark goal for Sweden in football or Michael Jordan throwing the winning shot for the Chicago Bulls to help them win the NBA, something usually sticks to people’s minds.
Track and field can be much more streamlined regarding how you can forge a trademark as an athlete. You either win a race in record time or win a World or Olympic Gold most often. It’s that simple.
There is, however, some dissimilitude to some disciplines in Track and Field, especially for the 100m event. For ages now, the event has been used as a touchstone in deciding the fastest man or woman on the planet. You win the event at a World Championship and are officially tagged the “fastest man in the world.”
Breaking the 100m world record comes few and far between for athletes, and only one person can lay claim to it at every point in time. Still, observers have always opined that breaking the 10-second barrier for a sprinter is the ultimate. As of 2020, only 144 men in history can boast of running below that mark.
Cue in Asafa Powell.
Of the over 800 total instances of various athletes dipping under 10 seconds throughout history, Powell is responsible for 97 of them, 11.64%! No other sprinter is even close! For context, the next person on the list is Justin Gatlin, who ran under 10s 53 times.
For all his fast times, however, Powell is yet to win individual gold at a major championship, with World and Olympic title haven eluded him throughout his career. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t take away from him the fact that he is the fourth fastest man in history, and his 97 races under 10s is a testament to his consistency and competitivity at the top level.
Unlike most successful Jamaican sprinters, Powell’s elder brother was an established sprinter and ran for the country. While he was running for the Caribbean nation at the Sydney Olympics, Asafa was just making his debut at the much-famed High school Championships at the age of 17, lacing his spikes for the less popular Charlemont High.
Not much pressure was on him to be spectacular at the Championships, considering the poor history of his school. He entered both the 100m and 200m. Powell finished 3rd in the prelims behind Steve Mullins and Marvel Anderson in a Personal Best (PB) time of 11.45, a time which couldn’t get him into the semis. The same disappointment followed in the 200m, where he finished fourth.
Putting that disappointment behind him, he came back the following season and qualified for the finals of both events of the Championships. With his Steller performances, he caught the attention of Steven Francis, the founder and head coach at MVP Track Club, one of Jamaica’s top tow track clubs.
Joining the MVP in late 2001, Powell began to show signs of improvement rapidly, and as the Nation Junior Championships came up that year, he outclassed his competitors to emerge victorious in the 100m junior with a new PB of 10.50s. His meteoric rise didn’t get into his head but served as a springboard for greater improvement.
Powell made it to the finals of his first-ever National senior trials where he finished fourth, although it was a major accomplishment, given he never ran faster than 10.32 prior to that championship. He clocked a new PB of 10.12s to finish his season as he made it to the semis of the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
At the prime age of 20 years, he opened his 2003 season with his first-ever sub-10 clocking of 9.99s in a meet in Jamaica. Many of his critics doubted his prowess, but he proved them wrong when winning the National Championships in the summer of that year. He officially became the fastest man in Jamaica. With it came a huge burden.
That newfound status ushered him into his first World Championships in Paris in 2003. With established runners all gunning for the most converted crown in athletics, he laid the gauntlet with a first-round defeat of Kim Collins, clocking 10.09s in the process. He, however, false-started in the semis, and Collins went on to win the finals in 10.07s. It was a watershed moment for Powell because many saw him as the man who defeated the eventual Champion.
The best was still to come as in 2004, he demolished Raymond Stewarts’ National Record of 9.96s, replacing it with a new 9.91s at the National Championship finals. He was an absolute monster that season as he clocked nine sub-10 seconds that season, way ahead of Justin Gatlin (6) and Shawn Crawford (5).
His first Olympics in Athens was also disappointing, as he finished fifth in the final, a race won by America’s Gatlin. This loss pushed Powell to run a scintillating race in Brussels in the then Golden league weeks after, clocking a mouth-watering 9.87s. This meant that Jamaica had a brand-new National record, and his performance that season uplifted them to one of the best sprinting nations.
Shaking off the bad memories of losing at the Olympic games the year prior, Powell at the age of 22 ran himself into the history books on the 14th of June 2005. He cracked Tim Montgomery’s World Record of 9.79s, reducing it by 200th of a second. It was the crowning moment of his career, and the world began to fix their eyes on the sprinting sensation.
Having broken the World Record, he needed to put the monkey off his back of not winning a major Championships, and with neither the Olympics and World Champs holding in 2006, he was unstoppable at the Commonwealth Games. He won the crown quite comfortably in 10.03s ahead of Nigeria’s Olusoji Fasuba, who ran 10.11s.
His performance at the World stage paved the way for other younger sprinters like Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake to put their faith in the Jamaican training system instead of going into the American Collegiate system.
After breaking the World record again in 2007 in the Italian city of Rieti, lowering the mark to 9.74s, it led many in his hometown to think that he wasn’t cut out for the big stage as a month before he had placed third at the World Championships behind American Tyson Gay and Derrick Atkins of the Bahamas. He recorded eight sub-10 clockings that season.
Powell’s legacy will be etched in the sands of time, as despite losing his World record to Bolt in 2008, he made a name as the Sub-10 King.