Putting Usain Bolt alongside legendary track and field athletes Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens as one of the greatest of all time, long jump world record holder Mike Powell said that the Jamaican star would have bettered his 26-year-old mark if he had trained for it.
Powell, whose record jump of 8.95 metres was set at the 1991 World Championship in Tokyo, was asked to choose the greatest athlete of all time between Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt on the sidelines of a promotional event for the SK 25K marathon run here.
“I think potentially Usain Bolt. I think that he could have long jumped nine metres had he trained for it,” Powell said.
“But I will have to give to Carl but maybe even Jesse Owens cos he broke four world records in one afternoon. But you talk about great athletes and three of them are definitely top of the list,” the 54-year-old brand ambassador of the event added.
Powell is best known for his duel with the legendary Lewis at the 1991 Championships. Lewis had three of the best jumps of his career and one wind-aided attempt beyond American legend Bob Beamon’s mark of 8.90m, but still finished second to Powell.
Asked what will happen to the sport now that Bolt has called it a day, Powell said he is hoping that there will be many new faces to take up the mantle from the superstar. He also opined that it will be good for the sport to break the monopoly of one athlete.
“Having 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,” he said.
On Bolt’s dominance being unhealthy for the sport, he said: “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 also said female athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, rated among the all time best in heptathlon as well as long jump, is right up there “man or woman”.
“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,” he said.
Having never won an Olympic gold, Powell joked when asked if he would swap his world record for a bite at the unconquered cherry.
“I talk to Carl about this all the time. I say maybe I will take three long jump gold medals and a 100 metres gold medal then maybe I will give up the world record.”
He said Carl is a dear friend now, unlike during their playing days when he always wanted to get the better of the nine Olympic gold medal winner.
“I see him pretty much like once a year. We are friends now and I am happy to see him. We have a good conversation and laugh about the past. It’s fun to see him now. Before I see him and ‘urrrgghh’ I wanna fight but now it’s like we appreciate the competitions we had in the past,” Powell said.