Pistorius' plight not on Powell's mind

Oscar Pistorius' plight to compete against the world's top sprinters hasn't come under Asafa Powell's radar yet.

updated: July 13, 2007 16:04 IST
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Oscar Pistorius' plight to compete against the world's top sprinters hasn't come under Asafa Powell's radar yet.

The 100-meter world record holder had to ask a javelin thrower sitting next to him who the double-amputee was when he was questioned about Pistorius at a press conference for the Golden Gala meet.

Along with Derrick Atkins, the Bahamas sprinter who is Powell's second cousin and top challenger for Friday's meet, Powell just giggled at his ignorance and sat silent.

Pistorius, who races on carbon fiber blades attached below his knees, is entered in a second-tier "B" 400-meter race at the Rome event. He is warming up for his world-class able-bodied race debut on Sunday in Sheffield, England.

Pistorius was given permission to race in able-bodied races by the International Association of Athletics Federations last month, but still faces a barrier to take the step up to Olympic level amid claims the curved blades he runs on create an unfair advantage.

The IAAF will film his race on Friday for study purposes.

Sanya Richards, the 400-meter runner who is one of four athletes still in the running for the Golden League jackpot of $1 million, was aware of the controversy.

"I think it's ridiculous for us to think they have an advantage," she said. "I hope he does well and runs fast."

Italian long jumper Andrew Howe, the meet's local star, agreed.

"He deserves to race. I think he has every right to. I'm happy to see him here," Howe said. "Disabled athletes have to work much harder than we do. I think it's a beautiful thing."

Powell recuperating

Powell has been busy recuperating from a groin injury. He was injured while winning at the Jamaican championships on June 23. His first race back came Tuesday, when he anchored Jamaica to victory in the 4x100 relay in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"That was just a test to see how my leg is and it's OK," Powell said Thursday. "I always expect good results. I've been working very hard on this injury and it's going good right now. I'm going to try and do my best tomorrow."

Atkins won in Lausanne and at the last Golden League meet in Paris last week. He will race Powell for the first time.

Missing Friday will be Tyson Gay, who pulled off an impressive 100-200 double at the US trials last month. Powell doesn't expect to race Gay until next month's world championships in Osaka, Japan.

"I think it's very unlikely, because I'm not going to run much before the worlds," said Powell, who has still not won a major championship aside from last year's Commonwealth Games.

Powell twice last year equaled his 100 world record of 9.77 seconds.

"Last year it was only about Asafa Powell. This year there's Tyson Gay and Atkins is coming up," Powell said. "If someone breaks the world record I'll go out and try to break it again."

Yelena Isinbayeva also knows a thing or two about world records. She has established 20 of them in the pole vault but none since clearing 5.01 meters at the worlds in Helsinki, Finland, in 2005.

Isinbayeva was excited about the prospect of finally facing some competition Friday. She will compete against Jennifer Stuczynski for the first time since the American cleared 4.88 meters on June 2 - tying Stuczynski with former world record-holder Svetlana Feofanova for second best of all time.

"The last two or three years I competed against myself," Isinbayeva said. "I'm always looking for other rivals. The stronger they are the better for me."

With flash bulbs popping as Stuczynski sat down next to Isinbayeva to discuss their impending showdown, the American appeared uncomfortable.

"I don't feel ready for it, honestly," Stuczynski said. "She's such a great athlete and pole vaulter. I need to keep training hard to fill that role better."

A former basketball player, Stuczynski has been pole vaulting only since 2004.

Isinbayeva is also in the running for the Golden League jackpot - awarded to competitors who win their event in each of the series' six meets. Tero Pitkamaki of Finland (javelin) and Michelle Perry (100 hurdles) are the others still with a chance.