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Five and Out (con't)

Posted: Thursday July 7, 2005 7:05PM; Updated: Thursday July 7, 2005 8:31PM
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Asafa Powell
World record holder Asafa Powell will meet Justin Gatlin on Friday, but it will be little more than a preview of Helsinki.
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4) Rome. Friday night. Justin Gatlin vs. Asafa Powell. 100 meters. Well?

Bring it on. The Olympic gold medalist against the new world record holder. But don't make too much of it. It will be interesting to see at this point how Powell shows in his first major international race since breaking the world record a month ago in Athens. He ran two sub-9.90 races before breaking the world record, so it's fair to wonder if he peaked too early in the season.

Conversely, it's pretty obvious that while Gatlin would love to win this race, he's pointing his entire season toward the World Championships in Helsinki in mid-August. The Euro press is making a huge deal of this showdown and another one on July 22 in London. That's fine. These are cool races. But unless somebody breaks the world record again, it's all about Helsinki and the gold medal on Sunday night, Aug. 7. The winner of that race gets bragging rights for a year and the right to call himself the World's Fastest Human. The best thing is that Gatlin is only 23 years old and Powell's only 22. Seldom have two sprinters so precocious shared the international stage.

On the subject of the 100 meters women's division, how about Chandra Sturrup's 10.84 to win in Lausanne on Tuesday night? That was a .02 personal record for Sturrup, who turns 34 in September and previously was known as a Bahamas relay runner and Marion Jones-practice stepchild. She hasn't run this fast in five years and is no longer coached by Trevor Graham.

Other surprises in the same race: U.S. Olympic silver medalist Lauryn Williams, who looked -- and admitted to feeling -- sluggish at the USA Track and Field nationals, ran a 10.91 PR and 32-year-old Christine Arron of France ran 10.94 to climb back into the international picture.

5) Yelena Isinbayeva cleared 16 feet, 2 inches to break the world record in the women's pole vault. Is she the most dominant athlete in track and field?

She is, without question, the most dominant athlete in women's track and field. When asked two weeks ago if Isinbayeva was in a league of her own, U.S. vaulter Stacy Dragila said, "Right now she is it.''

It's ironic -- and a little sad -- that Dragila is reduced to quantifying another athlete's prowess. Several years ago, Dragila predicted that women would soon be clearing 16 feet and not long after that, five meters (16-5). Isinbayeva has done one and will soon do the other. Dragila is 34. She was a pioneer in a new event. She deserves much credit for driving the vault's early growth and for winning its first Olympic gold medal, competing into the cold night in Sydney. Isinbayeva is 23. She is the future.