Athletics: Powell sets early pace at world indoors

Asafa Powell of Jamaica runs in a men's 60 meters heat during the IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships in Portland, Oregon on March 18, 2016.
Asafa Powell of Jamaica runs in a men's 60 meters heat during the IAAF World Indoor Athletics Championships in Portland, Oregon on March 18, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

PORTLAND (AFP) - Jamaican veteran Asafa Powell laid down an early marker in the opening round of the 60 meters at the World Indoor Athletics Championships here Friday (March 18), storming into the semi-finals with the fastest time of the year.

The 33-year-old's mark of 6.44sec was comfortably faster than anything clocked by his rivals at the Oregon Convention Center, leaving him satisfied heading into the semi-finals later Friday.

"I'm ready for this," Powell said afterwards. "I came here to run fast and that's what I'm going to do."

The key to Powell's impressive early showing was an explosive start from the blocks, something the sprinter revealed he had been working on.

"I lost it for a few years but it's back now. I'm ready to roll," said Powell, a member of Jamaica's gold medal winning 4x100m relay squad at last year's World Championships in Beijing.

Elsewhere in the heats on Friday, China's Xie Zhenye was second fastest in qualifying with a time of 6.55sec.

Veteran St. Kitts and Nevis sprinter Kim Collins also impressed with the third fastest time, a respectable 6.56sec - just weeks away from his 40th birthday.

Collins is hoping to use a strong performance in Portland to secure a place at his sixth Olympics after first racing in Atlanta in 1996.

"It's a big deal, for a sprinter at six Olympics, come on," said Collins, who was sent home from the London 2012 Games for leaving the athletes village without permission from his team.

Collins was happy with his display after comfortably reaching the semi-finals.

"I felt good. I was a little bit nervous - I don't know why. I needed to win so I could get a good semi-final so I'm happy with winning that well," he told reporters.

Asked to explain his remarkable longevity, Collins said he was reaping the benefits of looking after his body.

"Listen man, age is age," he said. "But I work so hard to take care of my body. My body's giving me back that goodness that I've been giving to it."

The main threat from the United States was led by Marvin Bracy and Trayvon Bromell, who both won their respective heats with identical times of 6.57sec.