Tuesday, August 28, 2007

gay beats powell

The "World Championship in Athletics" is in full swing at Osaka's Nagai Stadium. Last Monday, in the 100m final, American Tyson Gay defeated world record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica.
It was a thrilling race, one that reminded me how difficult this event is.
The race was being trumpeted as a showdown between Gay, who ran the world's fastest time this year, 9.84s at the American Trials, and Powell, who holds the world record with a time of 9.77s (respectively in lanes 5 and 4 below, taken from TBS Channel broadcast).Powell got off to a tremendous start and 30 meters into the race held a clear lead over the field. The race seemed his to lose.The 100 m, despite looking like an all-out effort, sheer power and adrenaline, is actually a very technical and mental race though. And here some technical explanation is needed. There's no acceleration after about 50 m. The human body just can't produce that amount of power. Sprinters can only hope to maintain or not lose much speed at the end. A sprinter needs to stay relaxed and focused in his own race if he wants to avoid tightening up and losing more speed than he normally does at the end of the race. And that is very, very difficult to do. Especially when you're sprinting for your country, for glory, for your life ("for god's sake"), against seven other guys who are breathing "on your neck". It requires an amount of confidence bordering on arrogance, a belief that whatever happens during the short time span of the first half of the race (little more than 5 sec.), he will eventually come up as the winner in the end. "I will win, I will win", that's what sprinters need to have in mind.
If you don't stay relaxed, you'll eventually end up trying a bit too hard and all will be lost. You'll tighten up. Your stride will get shorter. You'll lose more speed than others.
And that's where Powell failed. He didn't focus on his own race and tightens up, badly. He loses speed. Gay overtakes him swiftly and opens a decisive gap between them.
The race is over.Gay starts to celebrate even before crossing the finish line. His time, 9.85s, is not a world record, but it's a fast time nonetheless. And all it matters is the championship. Powell sees he had lost the race and gives up. Bahamian Derrick Atkins takes the silver. Powell is third.PS: I couldn't go to Osaka (damn...) so I took pictures from the excellent TBS Channel broadcast. For the IAAF official coverage of the event go here.

1 comment:

ethan said...

What a race! I've made a landscape canvas of that finish for my bedroom!