Asafa, Johnson bask in UTech’s moment of grandeur

BY DANIA BOGLE Observer staff reporter

Monday, February 06, 2012

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BUOYED by the acknowledgement of appreciation for his contribution to local athletics, 2008 Olympic Games 100m bronze medallist Asafa Powell said that he will be motivated to work even harder as he looks forward to this year’s Olympics in London, England.

Powell on Saturday was presented with the University of Technology (UTech) Chancellor's Medal by his alma mater as well as named the first International Ambassador for the Diana Award — named in honour of the late Princess of Wales.

"It’s really an honour for me because over the years this is what keeps an athlete going when you do a lot and people show that they appreciate what you’re doing and show that your work is not in vain... it’s not just another milestone. It’s big," Powell told the Observer.

"It’s a huge motivation for me to know that I started the year getting awarded and it just builds my spirit and my confidence to really look forward to the Olympic Games."

It was a night of celebration for UTech as the founder of the institution’s track and field programme, Olympian Dennis Johnson, also officially launched his biography, The Dennis Johnson Diaries, at a gala dinner at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel.

Several members of Powell’s Stephen Francis-trained MVP Track and Field Club also attended the function. They included Olympic Games 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce; 100m relay Olympic 2008 gold medallist Nesta Carter; IAAF 400m hurdles Diamond League winner Kaliese Spencer; 2008 Olympic Games 400m silver medallist Shericka Williams and World University Games shot put gold medallist, O’Dayne Richards.

Powell has in his decadelong career recorded more than 70 sub-10 second clockings and until 2008, held the 100m world record of 9.72 seconds.

The Chancellor’s Award is presented to an individual who has achieved distinction in a field of innovation; served the university with loyalty and distinction; made an outstanding contribution in fields other than those served by the university and achieved eminence and international recognition while the Diana Award is presented to "young people from across the globe who are committed to helping others and improving their community".

It was presented to Powell by chief executive, Maggie Turner OBE, who was also keynote speaker at the event, while Powell received the Chancellor’s Medal from UTech’s Chancellor, Edward Seaga.

"It means something for me to present the award to an athlete who is poised to go the full way. I think little effort is something that might very well tip him over into the winning spot that he might want," Seaga told the Observer.

The athlete, who is reigning national 100m champion, also proved earlier in January that he holds a special place in the hearts of Jamaicans when his June victory over Yohan Blake was named Performance of the Year at the annual Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards ceremony.

"To really be seeing all this going on in your own country for me is really motivating to see that the people still love me and still want me to do well," Powell said.

In the meantime, the diary about the life of Johnson, who still holds the world record in the 110 yards, tracks his days as a student at Calabar High, his years at Bakersfield College and San Jose University in the United States. Also it captures his return to Jamaica and being a member of the Carreras Sports Foundation, as well as launching UTech's sports programme.

"This is indeed a most auspicious occasion. It’s fantastic and I’m very happy to be a part of the whole thing," Johnson told the Observer.
He was also instrumental in starting UTech’s year-old Faculty of Science and Sport which offers degrees in Sport Science with specialisation in Sports Management, Athletic Training, and the Art and Science of Coaching.

"I didn’t think it would get this big or this successful. My only aim was to develop local people to international standards, but this is way past it... world records... Olympic stars... it has really rolled into something that I didn’t expect," he added.

UTech principal, professor Errol Morrison was basked in the glory of the evening. "I’m speechless. UTech is really proud of a moment like this. We have now come to the point where we’re recognising the achievements of two of our greatest sons."

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