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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 June 2006, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Powell hails rivalry with Gatlin
By Sarah Holt

Jamaican Asafa Powell
Powell says his rivalry with Gatlin is both on and off the track
Commonwealth champion Asafa Powell is enjoying his 100m duel with fellow world record-holder Justin Gatlin.

The two sprinters have yet to meet on the track this year but are already locked in a tussle that Powell says is vital to the future of athletics.

"Our rivalry is good for the sport," the Jamaican told BBC Sport. "I compare it to a heavyweight boxing match.

"It's an exciting time and I hope it gets even bigger because athletics needs more support and promotion."

Gatlin equalled Powell's world mark of 9.77 seconds in May.

The American was originally credited with 9.76secs following the blistering run in Qatar, but the time was surprisingly amended days later, denying him the record outright.

Gatlin and Powell were already big rivals - but that incident only increased the media focus on the two of them.

Powell insists he loves the attention and says the burgeoning rivalry is improving the image of the 100m as well as boosting athletics' flagging audiences.

The event has suffered its fair share of setbacks down the years, most notably in 1988, when Canadian Ben Johnson was stripped of Olympic gold after testing positive for anabolic steroids

I can go out and prove to the world that you can run real fast without taking performance enhancers

Asafa Powell

American Tim Montgomery also lost his world record and was banned for two years after he was found guilty of doping while Dwain Chambers, the European champion, was also handed a two-year suspension for using THG.

Gatlin himself tested positive for amphetamines in 2001.

However, his ban was later overturned because the steroid was part of the medication he had been taking for a decade to combat attention deficit disorder.

"I know I can go out and prove to the world that you can run real fast without taking performance enhancers and I feel good about that," said Powell, now in his fourth full season.

"I have a talent and I'm going to use it. When I am running, I just want to finish the race and hear the crowd cheering for me. It's a good feeling."

However, Powell said he would have no problem racing against Chambers now the Briton's ban has expired.

American Justin Gatlin
Powell wants to race Gatlin (above) just twice this season

"He received some bad advice," said Powell. "I have trained with him in Jamaica and there would be no problems with me if he was in a race."

Gatlin and Powell were scheduled to go head-to-head this Sunday at the Norwich Union British Grand Prix in Gateshead.

But the American pulled out with Gatlin's manager Renaldo Nehemiah, claiming a race against Powell was not part of the agreement.

The last time they met was at the London Grand Prix last July.

Gatlin cruised to victory at Crystal Palace, with Powell pulling up with a groin injury which also kept him out of the World Championships.

Powell, fresh from victory in the Oslo Golden League on Friday, is not surprised his main rival has chosen not to run in Gateshead.

"Maybe he is not ready to face me yet or maybe the prize is not enough to race me," said Powell.

"It's disappointing to know people were looking forward to the race, but I'll be there to win it with or without Justin.

"We will meet some time soon - I think we should just race twice this season."

Gatlin and Powell are both confirmed runners at the London Grand Prix on 28 July, and organisers Fast Track are confident both sprinters will turn up.

With no major championships this season, a re-match between the joint world-record holders is perceived by many to be the biggest draw on the athletics calendar.

Powell's agent Paul Doyle and Nehemiah are plotting when their charges should meet according to a host of variables including prize money, weather and venue.

It feels like there is a load on my back but I'm learning to handle the pressure.

Asafa Powell

However, despite the continuing hype, the Commonwealth champion insists their rivalry is genuine - on and off the track.

"We don't really talk that much on the circuit," said the 23-year-old Powell.

"If I see him out I say 'hi' and he says 'hi'. We also shake hands, but we are not real friends or anything so the rivalry is definitely real.

"When I'm in Jamaica people say to me 'you have to beat Justin Gatlin'. When I come to Europe they say the same thing.

"It feels like there is a load on my back but I'm learning to handle the pressure. Justin is more experienced than me, but I'm learning."



SEE ALSO
Gatlin & Powell plot July meeting
01 Jun 06 |  Athletics
Powell on top as Britons struggle
02 Jun 06 |  Athletics
Gatlin pulls out of Powell clash
28 May 06 |  Athletics
Powell breaks world 100m record
14 Jun 05 |  Athletics
Gatlin denied outright 100m mark
17 May 06 |  Athletics


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