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Asafa Powell, seeking title, tries new approach

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POSTED January 26, 2012 9:24 p.m.

 

NEW YORK — Asafa Powell, once the world's fastest man, wasn't setting any perfect attendance records at practice.

"Over the years I've been kind of lazy, thinking my talent alone can do it," he said Thursday. "This year, I'm trying something new."

Like not missing any workouts in what the Jamaican sprint star called "a very serious year."

He turns 30 in November, a few months after the London Games, which he's treating as his final Olympics.

"My age is moving as fast as me," Powell said with a laugh at a news conference across the street from Madison Square Garden, where he'll try something else new Saturday.

For the first time since 2004, Powell is racing during the indoor season.

"I've been doing something for many years and it's not working," he said.

Even though he held the 100-meter world record from 2005-08, Powell has never won a major individual title. Injuries and subpar performances on the biggest stages have left a career for now known more for what he hasn't accomplished than what he has.

So this weekend, Powell will run the 50 meters at the U.S. Open, hoping that indoor races are an ingredient in that elusive championship formula.

Powell set the world record of 9.77 seconds in June 2005 and lowered it to 9.74 two years later.

Then came a streak of lightning in countryman Usain Bolt, who shattered all expectations for the sport. Bolt first broke the mark a few miles from the Garden in May 2008 and has since lowered it to 9.58 with dominating gold medal performances at the 2008 Olympics and 2009 world championships.

Powell, meanwhile, had to settle for bronze at worlds in 2007 and '09. He was fifth at the Beijing Games.

But last year, he seemed poised to challenge Bolt at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, running the season's fastest time of 9.78. Instead, he never made it to the starting line because of a groin injury.

After Bolt false-started, another Jamaican, Yohan Blake, won gold.

Powell acknowledged he couldn't help but wonder: "Maybe if I was there, things would have been different."

Hoping things will turn out differently at this summer's Olympics, Powell is traveling with a doctor for the first time to try to stay healthy. So far, so good.

His history of physical ailments, and not just laziness, contributed to his one-time aversion to practice.

"I tried to push myself to the limit, got injuries, and kind of just backed off a bit," Powell said of the times in the past he dedicated himself to making every workout. "Said to myself, 'Maybe the harder I train, the more injuries I get.'"

Just making the Olympic team in his track-mad country is no guarantee. There are only three spots for a deep pool that includes Bolt, Blake and Nesta Carter, who won gold on the 400 relay that Powell anchored in Beijing and will also race Saturday.

The U.S. Open field also includes Justin Gatlin, who shared Powell's record of 9.77 until the American was stripped of the mark because of a doping violation.

Still popular in Jamaica — where, he jokes, he has "a lot of coaches" — Powell concedes expectations aren't too high for him in the rest of the world. He won't say definitively that London will be his last Olympics. He just knows he won't feel forever as he does now — that he's a threat to finally win that major title.

"I'm smart enough to know when my time has come," Powell said. "I'm still here competing, so that means I have the confidence in myself."

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