Conley, Powell appear at Legends press conference in Helsinki

08-07-2005

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Tom Surber
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USA Track & Field
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The Helsinki LOC held a press conference today to speak with "Legends" of the World championships and encouraged them to reminisce about their experiences at previous world championships. 1996 Olympic gold medalist Michael Conley and world record holder Mike Powell participated in today's event. The following is a Q&A:

Powell: I should have won the gold medal in 1992....Whenever I am introduced, most times people introduce me as the "gold medalist" from the Olympics. They assume because I have the world record that I'm the gold medalist. I never say anything, that sounds good to me. It's no problem to me at all.

Q: What does it mean for you to come back to the World Championships not competing this time, but in the capacity you're here, as a fan or working for whomever you're working for?

Powell: It's fun for me, I've been coaching elite athletes for a while. I coached in 2003 and I was in 2001, so basically here I'm just enjoying the competition. It's a lot of fun for me. If you consider this as things I have to do, this is no big deal. It's a good chance to get away from home for a minute and remember what it was like to travel the world, hang out with some old friends and tell some good lies. It's good.

Q: How many times have you talked about Tokyo and 8.95?

Powell: The good thing is that its written down, so I can't lie about that distance. The lies do get better. People ask me about it all the time. I'm very happy about it still, obviously. There will always be a part of me that's happy about that. As I look back on it now, I'm very proud of it. As soon as I broke the record, I was thinking about jumping nine meters and winning the gold medal. 'I was thinking that well, it's to .96.' Now I'm finished, I can look back and think 'hey, I was pretty good. I did alright.'

Q: Are you surprised the world record is still yours?

Powell: Well, yes, basically. I thought that Carl (Lewis) would come back and break the record in the competition, I thought I'd have to do the same thing again. Then in 1995, the way Pedrosa was jumping, I thought that he would get the record and obviously he almost did. Now, there are talented jumpers out there, but they don't quite know exactly how to do it.

Conley: Obviously, I'm around a lot working for the federation, coming to every World Championships, every Olympic Games, it keeps me involved in the sport and I enjoy that.One of the stories that never got told was about they days leading up to it (Tokyo.) Mike Powell and I were roommates during Tokyo and he drove me crazy. He stayed in his room the whole time in front of his television. He just did this the whole time (whispers) "I'm going to win, I'm going to win, I'm going to win" and he bounced on that bed for three days straight. Then it was like the door opened and unleashed him on that and he broke the world record. I've never been around anyone more focused on one thing. I've been around Mike a long time, but it was a different person in that room leading up to the World Championships.

Q: Talk about in more detail what you do for USA Track & Field.

Conley: I am the Executive Director of Elite Athlete Programs. I've got the teams and support programs and anti-doping underneath me. For IAAF, I'm on athlete commission. Here, I'm in the capacity of working for the IAAF athlete commission, trying to help troubleshoot problems that's going on in the Championships and reach out to athletes in the village and give them someone to talk to.Q: What has changed most in the sport since you stepped off the track? If you were in charge what would you do?Powell: I think the sport in Europe seems about the same. I think in the United States, it's not as followed as it should be. With Mike being involved with the Elite Athletes program, someone like Mike who's been in the sport who knows what needs to be done it is definitely beneficial. So, for me, I think the people who came before me - Edwin Moses, Willie Banks, Evelyn Ashford, Greg Foster - and with the group of people that I came through with myself, Michael Conley, Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson - we laid the foundation for them to follow. I'd like for them to be on a bigger stage and be more appreciated in the U.S.Conley: I think currently we have an opportunity in our sport, especially in America. We have a lot of very, very talented young athletes. They're not quite stars in the eyes of Americans, but they can become that in Beijing, here in Helsinki and next year in Moscowand onto London. One thing that I think that happens in our sport and I see it in other sports, I don't care how good an athlete becomes right now, in my mind and maybe some of your minds, they'll never become as good as some of those icons that you grew up with. And so, no one will be Edwin Moses. Even if an athlete won 100 meets in a row, they won't be Edwin Moses. There won't be another Evelyn Ashford, there won't be another Carl Lewis, there won't be another of these icons because we look at them as kids growing up. It's hard to idolize kids as adults. That's one thing that happens in sport and I think we're going through that now. After this World Championships and championships to come, we're going to have more and more stars.

Q: Who are you favorites in the long jump and triple jump here?

Powell: I think in the long jump that Dwight Phillips is kind of a step ahead of everyone else right now. If he's not injured, or doesn't have a bad competition, he'd be pretty hard to beat. I know as far as U.S., it's a crap shoot. I'm looking forward to that. I consider myself to be a track geek, for me it's just fun to watch. There's no pressure because I'm not competing and now I'm not even coaching, so I'm just looking forward to watching.

Conley: I work for the federation, I may lose my job for predicting (laughter). Really, I think currently we have a lot of talented jumpers. The talent is there. Dwight is clearly the favorite in people's minds. But, people like Miguel Pate - I watched this kid jump 8.79m indoors a couple of years ago, so with that kind of talent anything can happen. Same thing in the triple jump. Walter Davis could get ninth place or he could win it. I like the U.S. chances in both.