Asafa Powell said something I found interesting today in his pre-race interview at the Memorial Van Damme meet in Brussels, Belgium.
“I don’t know how to explain (his form in Beijing), maybe I’m just a guy for the circuit. I just don’t know how to explain it,” said Powell.
“At the Olympics, I went back into the relay and ran really well, I said to myself ‘why didn’t I feel like that in the final (of the individual 100m)’. Perhaps it’s running the rounds (at a championships) where as on the circuit you are just running once on the track. That’s all I could come up with.” (emphasis mine)
Asafa Powell has been pegged as an underachiever, given that he has run such amazingly fast times yet never won a major championship. To be fair, he wasn't going to beat Usain Bolt in Beijing. But he arguably should have been second instead of fifth. And that's the crux of the argument against Powell. It's not just that he's never won. It's that relative to his abilities, he under-performs in championship situations.
Personally, I think the above is a telling quote. Long-time readers of Optimal Training will know how often I talk about how high achievers and low achievers attribute their successes and failures. At the risk of oversimplifying, high achievers attribute success to hard work and painstaking preparation. They attribute failure to being lazy or underestimating the difficulty of the challenge. In sum, they focus on qualities that they have some measure of control over.
Low achievers, on the other hand, tend to attribute success to luck or the relative ease of the challenge. Yet they attribute failures to their lack of talent. Essentially, they take no credit for their successes and blame that which is internal and unchangeable for failure.
Now take a look at that quote and tell me which group you'd put Asafa Powell into, if you only had that quote to go by. (This is why I love reading athlete interviews...it's the only chance you get to see how they think!) With only that quote, you'd have to put him into the "low achiever" group, wouldn't you? He's essentially saying he doesn't have the "innate talent" for championship racing.
I'm not saying Asafa Powell is a failure or a low achiever. He's obviously not. He obviously believes in hard work, or he'd never have become this fast. But equally obvious to me is that psychologically, Asafa Powell's mindset is not 100% aligned with high achievement. He gives himself an out by blaming things outside his control when he fails. If he really believes this (and I expect he does), then how hard will he work to change it? (Answer: he won't, it's unchangeable!)
I don't expect Asafa Powell to win any major championships until he addresses this issue. His problems have nothing to do with talent or being "just a guy for the circuit." That's ridiculous. The simple fact about his championship record is that he hasn't won because he hasn't prepared appropriately. He may or may not have done the physical work, but he obviously hasn't done the mental work necessary to succeed.
It's not too late--it's never too late--but it's ultimately up to him. Is he ready to do the hard work to change his mindset?
Update: I meant to tip Jimmie at 400 Meter Oval for finding this story. He is aggregating all the news--literally, all of it--about running over at his site. If you're looking for a good running article, 400 Meter Oval is a great place to start.