Olympic dreams at 40

LONDON (Reuters) – World long-jump recordholder Mike Powell plans to make a comeback at the age of 40 and compete for the United States at the Athens Olympics in August. «There are three spots available on the Olympic team and I plan to take one of them,» Powell said in a statement released yesterday. «The Olympics is the biggest spectacle in international sport and I’d like to be part of it once more.» Powell jumped 8.95 metres at the 1991 Tokyo world championships to break Bob Beamon’s world record of 8.90 set at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. During the greatest long-jump competition ever staged, Powell bettered a mark which many athletics experts believed would last until the 21st century. In Tokyo, Carl Lewis, who won four consecutive Olympic long-jump titles, was the first to go past Beamon’s record with a wind-assisted 8.91 meters in the fourth round. Powell broke the record in the fifth round and Lewis, despite stringing together the best sequence of jumps ever, was relegated to second place, ending a 10-year streak of 65 successive wins. Two years later, Powell retained his world title but he could not win Olympic gold, finishing second to Lewis at both the 1988 and 1992 Olympics. «My technique is better because of the coaching that I have been doing for the past five years,» Powell said. «My muscle memory is great, so I don’t have to learn how to do the movements all over again. I just have to make my body fast, and most importantly, healthy. At my age in track and field, like most sports, people say that you are too old. My belief is that people age differently. I don’t look, act and definitely don’t feel I’m 40,» he added. American Dwight Phillips won the world title in Paris last August with a leap of 8.32 metres. He is the world leader this year with a best of 8.44 set at high altitude. In a telephone interview from his home near Los Angeles, Powell said he planned to compete in one meeting to get the qualifying distance for the US trials in Sacramento next month. «If I jump 8.30 at the Olympic trials, then I can get the bronze medal at the Olympics,» he said. «I believe I can do it. My speed is good. My endurance is no longer as good. I can’t jump 30 times in practice.» Powell said, with the advantage of maturity, he realized how much competing in the Olympics meant. «When I competed before, my whole plan was to win and get the world mark,» he said. «Now just making the Olympic team is a great thing.»