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Powell defends Bolt after Lewis goes on attack

Jamaica's Asafa Powell leapt to the defence of compatriot and sprint sensation Usain Bolt here on Saturday after ex-Olympic champion Carl Lewis questioned Bolt's performances in Beijing.

With Bolt resting back in Jamaica, Powell again dipped below ten seconds to win the 100m at the World Athletics Final on Saturday then said he was disappointed with comments made by Lewis in the United States.

After Bolt won three gold medals and set three world records in Beijing, Lewis said anyone who did not question the sudden improvements in the champions' performances was a 'fool'.

"Yes, I am disappointed with the words of a former athlete," said Powell, who finished fifth in the 100m Olympic final but was part of the Jamaican team that smashed the 4x100m relay world record.

"Usain (Bolt) did better than all the other athletes before him and yet he (Lewis) does not manage to believe in him.

"What Usain did does not shock me, because I know how much talent he has and this is the first year he has devoted his training to the 100m." Powell was responding after Lewis, who won four gold medals at the 1984 Olympics, told Sports Illustrated: "When people ask me about Bolt I say he could be the greatest athlete of all time.

"But to run 10.03 seconds one year and 9.69 the next, if you don't question that in a sport with the reputation it has right now, you're a fool. Period."

Former world record-holder Powell won in wintry conditions here in a time of 9.87secs - the sixth time he has run sub 10-seconds since the Olympics.

Meanwhile, Olympic and world champion Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic set a new world javelin record here with a throw of 72.28m here and said she will spend her 130,000 dollars prize money to build a new house.

She smashed the old record by 58cms and was delighted to break the previous mark of 71.70m set by Cuba's Osleidys Menendez at the 2005 World Athletics Championships in Helsinki.

Having defeated two-times world champion Jeremy Wariner in Beijing, USA compatriot LaShawn Merritt once again slayed his rival, but by the closest of margins in the men's 400m.

Wariner had a clear lead off the final bend, but Merritt ran him down and dived over the line to win by less than a hundredths of a second. Wariner vowed to learn the lessons of 2008 to make sure there is no repeat in 2009.

"Next year, I have to work a lot harder to beat LaShawn," he said.

On a bleak day in Stuttgart, America's Beijing silver medal-winner Kerron Clement was unimpressed with the cold German weather as he won the 400m hurdles in 48.96secs.

"The weather was cold - just horrible," he complained.

"Now I am going home to spend my vacation in Los Angeles, just relax and party. "I won't change anything next year."

With her wedding to New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross coming up in 2010, Sanya Richards won the 200m in 22.50secs and admitted she was just having fun ahead of planning her big day.

"I get married in February 2010 and we have to start the preparations now," she said. "My fiancee is in the middle of the (American) football season and couldn't come, but after winning here I need to get home and start planning."

Having suffered heartbreak in Beijing when a clipped hurdle cost her a medal, America's Lolo Jones finished second behind winner Josephine Onyia of Spain in the 100m hurdles.

America's Bernard Lagat of the day won the first track event of the weekend when he ran a season's best of 8 mins 2.97secs in the 3000m ahead of Kenya's Edwin Cheruiyot Soi.

But it was a subdued first day after news Russian pole-vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva had withdrawn on Saturday morning with a heavy cold. The 26-year-old reigning Olympic and world champion had been expected to dominate Saturday's competition. The Russian was already suffering with a cold when she arrived in Stuttgart and an additional upset stomach forced her to withdraw.

"I've tried everything, but my body has simply said 'no'," she said.

"My cold hasn't got any better and I've also had problems with my stomach."

She was another big name to withdraw from this weekend's season finale after Beijing 110m hurdles winner Dayron Robles and Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele, who won both the 5000m and 10000m in Beijing, pulled out last week.

STUTTGART, Germany, Sunday AFP

 

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