Asafa Powell (left) and Usain Bolt in 2009.
Reigning Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt's 2012 debut at 100 meters took a hit Friday when Asafa Powell, one of the few sprinters talented enough to test Bolt, withdrew from Saturday's Jamaican Invitational. His agent cited a groin injury, according to Reuters.
Powell's withdrawal was no surprise to anyone familiar with his history, and it raises concern that he might not be a factor at the London Games.
Bolt's race Saturday in Kingston is still highly anticipated. And the meet still includes his closest current rival, reigning 100-meter world champion Yohan Blake, who, like Bolt and Powell, is Jamaican. However, Blake is scheduled to race in the 200, while Bolt runs the 100. And track fans have to start worrying that it will be another summer of injury questions for Powell, who had been expected to run either the 100 or 200 on Saturday.
Powell, who is the third-fastest 100-meter runner of all-time with a best of 9.72 seconds, pulled out of last year's World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, also with a groin injury. Powell and Bolt did race each other in the final of the 2008 Olympic 100 meters. Bolt won in 9.69 and Powell was fifth in 9.95.
Powell, 29, has never won a 100- or 200-meter world or Olympic title. He had plenty to say last year in a Guardian story about his chances to supplant Bolt as the world's top sprinter, even anticipating gold at this year's Summer Games. Then, not only did he not compete in the 2011 World Championships, but he pulled out of an earlier meet in which he was to race Blake—again citing a tight groin.
He had talked big in 2007, too, after setting a world record—as detailed in this L.A. Times piece. This after he finished third in the 2007 World Championships and had pulled out of the 2005 Worlds with another injury.
Given his history, track fans will just be happy to see him in the blocks at some point this summer. But most eyes will be on Blake, Bolt and American Tyson Gay as the true rivals for Olympic gold.