RIETI, Italy &
Asafa Powell has been working hard since his third-place finish in the 100 meters at the World Championships in Japan.
It paid off Sunday when he lowered his world record by .03 seconds to 9.74 at the Rieti Grand Prix.
"I was much more fluid," said Powell, who had run 9.77 three times. "Zero tension, zero pressure."
Powell set his latest record in the second of two heats, and even eased up at the end to save something for the final, which he won in 9.78.
"This means that I can do even 9.68," the Jamaican said. "I'm worth that time, I know it."
The record was set with a strong wind at his back, but it was below the maximum allowed by the IAAF to make records valid.
In the final, Powell won with no wind. Jamaican teammate Michael Frater was second in 10.03, followed by Jaysuma Saidy Ndure of Norway in 10.10.
"Today I ran like I should have done at the worlds," Powell said. "At Osaka, I was too tense, I was thinking about the race and the time I had to set. Instead, here I was relaxed."
After the final, Powell celebrated amid a crowd of photographers on the field of Raul Guidobaldi stadium, throwing a bouquet of flowers into the stands and shaking hands with fans and signing autographs during a victory lap.
"Me and my coach have been working to getting myself back to normal," Powell said. "I came here today and I executed properly and did what I was supposed to do."
Powell is only the fourth non-American to hold the 100 world record since 1912. Donovan Bailey of Canada (1996), Armin Hary of West Germany (1960) and Percy Williams of Canada (1930) are the others.
Rieti is a fast track on which six middle-distance world records have been set.
"It's a very fast track. I love this track. It's very bouncy," said Powell, who trains in Italy three months of the year. "Italy is a good place for me. It's my second home."
Powell first set the world record of 9.77 in June 2005 in Athens, Greece. Justin Gatlin matched the time in May 2006, but the American faces a suspension of up to eight years following a positive doping test for testosterone and other steroids at the Kansas Relays a month earlier. In June 2006, Powell again ran 9.77, and then did it a third time in August 2006.
But Powell has struggled at major competitions, missing a medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. At the worlds, he finished behind gold medalist Tyson Gay and Derrick Atkins, running 9.96. The bronze was Powell's first major medal.
"That was a race I had to win and I didn't. Enough. I lost," Powell said. "The real Powell is the one from today, not the Osaka one."
Powell had also been one of the favorites at the 2003 worlds, but he was disqualified in the heats for a false start. He missed the 2005 worlds because of a groin injury.
Michael Johnson, the world record holder at both 200 and 400 meters, criticized Powell during the worlds last month, saying the Jamaican is "not a great competitor." Johnson said Powell gave up in Osaka when he was overtaken by Gay in the final 40 meters.
"He's not a great competitor, you can see it in his eyes," Johnson wrote in his column for the British Broadcasting Corp. "He can learn to be a great competitor, but first you have to admit that you're not."
Powell should get another chance to race Gay next Sunday. Both are scheduled to compete at the Golden League's Memorial Van Damme meet in Brussels, Belgium.
Sally McLellan of Australia won the women's 100 in 11.30, followed by Stephanie Durst of the United States in 11.37 and Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie of the Bahamas in 11.38.
Several world champions also won, including Lauryn Williams of the United States in the women's 200, Janeth Jepkosgei of Kenya in the women's 800, Yargelis Savigne of Cuba in the women's triple jump and Irving Saladino of Panama in the men's long jump.
Powell sets 100-meter record at World Championships
RIETI, Italy &