Beijing: Asafa Powell is confident he can bury his reputation for choking at big events and grab glory in the blue riband event of the men's 100m at the Beijing Olympics.
Powell arrives in China as the least-vaunted of a trio of top sprinters including Jamaican compatriot and newly-installed world record holder Usain Bolt and reigning double world sprint champion Tyson Gay.
But with Bolt being pushed for an Olympic double by his coach Glen Mills and Gay recovering from a hamstring injury that saw him miss out on a berth for the US 200m team, Powell could be in the ideal spot to pull off a result.
"Usain taking the record is a great weight off my shoulders," said the 25-year-old, whose main international honours are a Commonwealth sprint double from Melbourne in 2006.
"I am happier being the underdog. Tyson is obviously in good shape but he has had to peak for the US trials. Tyson has beaten me only once in his life and I have beaten him over 100 times but he won when it mattered," Powell said in reference to last year's World Championships 100m final in Osaka, a race in which he could only finish third.
"It will be the same in Beijing. If Usain is there I'm not going to say 'Damn, I'm not going to get gold now'. People are making it seem that Asafa is dead. People are making it seem like Asafa can't run fast. Well, I can run faster than before."
According to Powell's coach Stephen Francis, all that stands between Powell, a sprinter who has broken the 10sec barrier 39 times and and has clocked five of the seven times under 9.8sec in 100m history, and Olympic gold is his mind.
"To me it's like a cricket Test," Francis told Melbourne's The Age newspaper.
"He goes out there on day one in the heats, is feeling good, and breaks records. Then on the second day, when he isn't feeling so good, it all gets to him. He can panic. In a Test match, you have to be good for all five days, not just the first. It's the same with Asafa... If we can get him right mentally, I have no doubt he will win in Beijing."
Powell might have lost his world record to Bolt in May, but his form coming into Beijing has also been impressive.
At the end of July, he won three 100m events inside a week, lastly cruising to victory in Monaco with a season-best time of 9.82sec.
Powell shaved 0.06sec off his previous season-best of 9.88, set a few days previous in Stockholm, where he saw off Bolt in a confidence booster.
The winning time in Monaco was the fourth best time of the season - all the more impressive given the windless conditions - Bolt's current 9.72sec world record mark, set on May 31 in New York, was achieved with wind of 1.7 m/s.
"I feel great, very fresh," Powell said. "I've got a world record in my legs. I am very confident. My goal is to be consistent."
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