Powell: 'Would have coached Anju to Olympics medal'

A world record holder in men’s long jump for 26 years, Mike Powell said he could have coached Anju Bobby George to an Olympic medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Mike Powell at the TSK 25K event in Kolkata on Thursday.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A world record holder in men’s long jump for 26 years, Mike Powell said he could have coached Anju Bobby George to an Olympic medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Anju, who secured a bronze in the 2003 World championship and a 2005 World Athletics Final gold in women’s long jump, did her personal best of 6.83m, a National record, to finish fifth in the Athens Olympics.

READ: I'm the Beethoven of the long jump, says Powell

Powell, who was here as the brand ambassador of the Tata Steel 25K race on Sunday, said Anju could have finished on the Olympics podium.

“If I were with Anju Bobby George in 2004, she would have won a medal in the Olympics - maybe a gold… She had the potential to jump seven meters. For her it was not about the technique as much. It was in the mind – how to compete at the highest level, thinking I deserve it, I want to do this,” Powell said during a select media interaction on Thursday.

Powell said he would love to produce a world-class jumper from India. “There are 1.3 bn people. I know some jumpers are there. I am sure of it.”

Powell welcomes Russia ban

About the doping issues in athletics, Powell said the number was actually small considering the fact that a large number of athletes participated in various events across the globe.

The multiple World champion welcomed the overall ban on Russia, slapped by the IAAF, for propagating doping.

READ: IOC bans Russia from 2018 Winter Olympics

However, Powell said the booing of World 100m champion Justin Gatlin, who dethroned multiple Olympics gold medallist Usain Bolt in the latter’s farewell race, was not fair. “He (Gatlin) deserves better because he is following the rules. The rules say if you serve the suspension, then you can compete again. For me, he should be done for life.”

Read: How the Russian doping scandal has unfolded

Powell did not support the European Athletics Association’s move to erase records made before 2005 as it would be unfair towards the clean athletes.

About his own record of 8.95m, which he made by surpassing Bob Beamon’s 20-year-old mark of 8.9m, 54-year-old Powell said, “Records are made to be broken, but I don't want to lose mine.

“Now the jumpers are very talented but they don't seem to have the same mentality (which I had).”

Asked who among Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt would rank as the greatest athlete of all time, Powell said, “I think potentially Usain Bolt. He could have long jumped 9m had he trained for it.

“But I will have to give it to Carl, maybe even Jesse Owens because he broke four world records in one afternoon. But you talk about great athletes and three of them are definitely on top of the list.

'Someone will fill Bolt's void'

On the end of Bolt era, Powell said, "Bolt, he was so dominant for so long that people said what's going to happen after he finishes. But they said the same thing about Carl Lewis then Michael Johnson came on, and then Usain came along after that. So someone will come and fill the void. Hopefully it will be a number of people. When I was competing, it was the golden era. Now maybe we will get back to that time."

But Powell agreed that Bolt's dominance was unhealthy for athletics. "I agree. Same thing happened when I was competing. Carl was the dominant one. They would not have long jump competitions if Carl was not there. That time, I was on my way up. I took that as an incentive to get better. So hopefully someone will take the opportunity and stand up now."

Powell said, "Jackie Joyner-Kersee is one of the greatest athletes of all time, period. Man or woman. She was a big inspiration for me. She trained in the same school in LA as me and I used to watch her. She was a big motivating factor for me."

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