Powell calls for head to head clashes
05 May 2011
Athletics will suffer unless it offers more head-to-head meetings of key performers such as Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay, according to former 100 metres world record holder Asafa Powell.
"We need to have our top stars racing each other to make the sport exciting," Jamaican Powell, who held the world mark until his compatriot Bolt began his record-breaking blitz, told Reuters via email.
"If we reserved the head-to-heads for only the major championships, nobody would care much about the rest of the meets."
Powell will boost interest in sprinting with head-to-head meetings against both Bolt and American Gay in Diamond League races this year.
But it likely to be the August 27-September 4 world championships in Daegu, South Korea, before Olympic and world champion Bolt and his top challenger Gay meet.
The trio have not competed in the same race since the 2009 world championships, where Bolt set world records in both the 100 and 200 metres. Gay and Powell took silver and bronze in the 100 metres but did not contest the 200.
The world's two fastest men met only once last year, when Gay upset Bolt in Stockholm.
Athletes' schedules and hefty appearance fees are cited most often as reasons for their infrequent joint appearances.
Other competitors, including hurdlers and women sprinters, go head-to-head frequently, but not as much is at stake financially as for sprinting's top three.
Bolt's agent Ricky Simms said he saw both pros and cons to head-to-head competition.
"In some ways it would (be good for the sport), in some ways it would not," Simms told Reuters earlier this year.
"It worked very well in 2009 when they raced everywhere, then the buildup to meeting each other at the world championships.
"That way it makes the world championships even more special. They get something that is exclusive, which is very important I think for our sport."
But Simms said he also recognised the value that head-to-head meetings presented for the Diamond League, where a major aim is more face-to-face races.
Last year's Stockholm clash between Bolt and Gay drew massive interest, not only for the sport but for the winner.
"It was crazy," former world champion Gay said of the public reaction. "It was like I didn't even exist until I beat the world record holder."