Men's long jump world record holder Mike Powell has is set to attack the world masters record in the 50-54 age group in a high profile comeback to the sport which could see him compete at the World Masters Games 2017.
The US long jumping icon is best remembered for defeating his countryman Carl Lewis courtesy a monster world record leap of 8.95m, which still stands today, in an epic showdown at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo.
Powell officially retired from the sport after a failed to attempt to make the US team for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. However, after shedding almost 30kg in weight in the past 18 months, the Californian believes he is once again primed and ready for competition.
“I've been saying that I have been going to get the masters world record since I finished competing (as a world class athlete),” explains Powell. “I always wanted to jump but I was either too big, I got hurt or changed jobs.”
Today aged 51 and weighing 83kg - only several kilograms heavier than when setting the 24-year-old world record– today he adopts a slightly different philosophy to the sport to when he was younger.
Out have gone the heavy sessions in the gym to be replaced by a more holistic approach to the health and fitness which includes lengthy spells of dancing as a regular part of his regimen.
In New Zealand to help promote the IAAF Nestle Kids' Athletics programme he believes competing at the New Zealand Track & Field Championships in the capital city represents a great opportunity to show what he can do.
“My original plan was to come here and jump 8m but now the plan is to come out here and get the masters world record of 6.84m,” he explains. “Even if I don't do it, and I think I will, then I am 51 I look good, I feel great and I am happy.”
Yet Powell insists competing at the New Zealand Track & Field Championships is not the limit of his ambition and his long term goal is to qualify for the 2016 US Olympic Trials.
“This is going to be the most difficult thing I've done before in my life but I think I can jump 8.30m (a mark which would have ranked Powell eighth best jumper in the world in 2014 and would have won him a medal at each of the past two Olympic Games). “If I do that as a 51-year-old you can be sure a whole pack will follow.”
Yet the two-time former world champion and two-time Olympic silver medallist has not ruled out returning to New Zealand once more for the World Masters Games 2017 in Auckland.
“New Zealand was always on my bucket list of countries to visit.” he explains. “I've loved my time here, so maybe.”
Photo credit: Alana McDonald Macspeedfoto