Powell: I’m not a choker

(CMC) After two failed Olympic bids, Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell is seeking to bolster the mental aspect of his performance to better prepare him to handle big moments.

Powell flopped at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and again in Beijing last year but coach Steve Francis says with weaknesses now identified, efforts were being made to remodel the sprinter for future success.

‘The Olympics proved a lot. We were able to zero in on what his problems were and we have taken steps to give him a better opportunity to reveal his true abilities,’ Francis said.

‘His problem has to do with how he values a particular competition and the build-up of expectations and his approach to being under pressure.

‘We have been working with mental coaches, to ensure that he feels up to those situations more rigorously.’

Powell, once the world’s fastest man, has been unable to transfer that speed into success at major events.

One of the pre-race favourites to take the 100 metres both in Athens and Beijing, Powell was beaten soundly into fifth on both occasions. At the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, he also failed to win, finishing third.

It strengthened critics’ claims of Powell being a choker, a label he is more than anxious to rid himself of as he begins preparation for the new season and especially with the World Championship approaching in Berlin in August. Usain Bolt will clearly be the favourite but Powell is not prepared to concede just yet to his compatriot.

‘I’m a lot happier than last year. I’m in training. I’m doing some crazy workouts,’ he said.

‘It’s a lot easier being in second place because it gives you something to work for. I’m working at everything. I’m not weak but I’m working at it. I’m working with psychologists in every way possible to make sure that I am ready when the time comes. It is a very strong event and me and Usain are neck and neck so it is going to be exciting.’

Powell is currently preparing for the Sydney Track Classic this weekend where he will run the 400 metres, to improve his stamina for his best event, the 100m.

Francis said the 400m would also help Powell deal with demanding races.

‘It will give him a great lesson in trying to do well under pressure,’ said Francis.

‘He has never run a 400 under pressure before and the pressure of him trying to do well will be of benefit to him.’