Mon | May 25, 2020

Laurie Foster | Do not question the excellence of Powell

Published:Wednesday | February 19, 2020 | 12:30 AM
Jamaican sprinting superstar Asafa Powell (second right) and wife Alyshia (centre) beam with pride after the unveiling of a statue in his honour at Independence Park in St Andrew on February 9. Also in photo are Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right), Sport Minister Olivia Grange and sculptor Basil Watson. Powell, a former world record holder over 100m, has run the distance under 10 seconds more than any other athlete in history.
Jamaican sprinting superstar Asafa Powell (second right) and wife Alyshia (centre) beam with pride after the unveiling of a statue in his honour at Independence Park in St Andrew on February 9. Also in photo are Prime Minister Andrew Holness (right), Sport Minister Olivia Grange and sculptor Basil Watson. Powell, a former world record holder over 100m, has run the distance under 10 seconds more than any other athlete in history.

The most recent addition to the Statue Park at the National Stadium, is the one honouring the achievements of the country’s most appreciated former 100-metre world record holder, Asafa Powell. The conversation surrounding him being announced as a recipient of this recognition has been intense and diverse. There are those in the sporting populace who feel that Powell’s record is undeserving of such a response from the Government of the day. Others have begun to search for athletes equal to him or even who exceed his performances and, therefore, should be so recognised. The names of the nation’s first female Olympic gold medallist, Deon Hemmings and four-time Olympian, Alia Atkinson have been put forward as athletes who should be candidates for a statue.

Quite likely in answer to the debate as to whether this or that sporting personality is deserving of the honour of a statue commissioned in their memory, the responsible minister, Olivia Grange has made a commitment to the public. From what the minister has said, there would be a committee put together which would set out the criteria for any athlete to receive consideration for the honour.

He deserves it

Although this would be welcome, Foster’s Fairplay seeks to respond to those who consider that Powell is undeserving. Asafa has an older brother, Donovan, who unlike him, was well celebrated during his days at high school. He will be remembered as the only athlete who beat the highly decorated Calabar High star, Daniel England. That came in the Class One 200m at Boys’ Champs 1991, which was England’s final individual effort at the world-renowned track and field extravaganza.

The former world record holder was discovered and coached by Stephen Francis of the MVP group. Early in the association, Francis suggested that he could break the world record. Asafa does not exude the braggadocio and haughty attitude that characterises the make-up of a top sprinter. That was never his style, even when he was whipping the world’s best left, right, and centre. He always maintained his humility, unaffected by his success despite being hailed as the world’s best. This could be one of the detracting factors that caused him not to receive the respect and global acclaim for which he toiled under Francis. He allowed his body of work to speak for him. Apart from the world record, he managed to sprint to 97 sub-10 clockings, an accomplishment, which, in itself, is seen as a major and, of course, unprecedented achievement.

Inspiration to others

Foster’s Fairplay has also to give Powell a lot of praise for getting younger sprinters to believe that they, too, can tackle the world and be good at what they do. How else can one explain either a 1-2-3 in the 200m, as occurred at the Olympic level, and four Jamaicans in a 100m final of a World Championships. It is reasonable to conclude that the athletes involved must have received the confidence and inspiration coming from Powell opening that door to the belief that such feats were not impossible.

So, the call should never be to question the excellence of Asafa Powell, but rather to add any other who might be considered of the same quality and so recognised. With that in mind, the promise of the minister should be welcome. There was applause coming after that announcement, and rightly so. This was what should be expected from the minister, as calls disputing Powell’s relevance must have come to her attention. Let us not think that the response from the gathering should wait until the announcements from the proposed committee are made. Rather, they provide an opportunity to hold the minister to her word.

That will be done, if only to justify that Asafa Powell is truly deserving of the honour which he has been accorded.

For feedback email: lauriefoster2012@gmail.com.