Kenneth Powell the ‘Gentleman Sprinter’ who blazed the tracks | More sports News

BENGALURU: Kenneth Lawrence Powell, who died on Sunday, was one of India’s top sprinters in the 1960s and 1970s, which opened the tracks of the whole world shortly after the heroism of “Flying Sikh” Milkha Singh.
“Powell complained of shortness of breath and we rushed him to hospital on Sunday morning, but he did not respond to treatment. He was in good health and went to bed after watching the game quarter-final between England and France,” family sources told TOI. He is survived by his wife and former athlete Daphne, daughter Michelle and son Geoffrey. His second son Gavin recently passed away.
Powell, 82, a native of Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) and the first athlete from Karnataka to represent India at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, was India’s flag bearer at the 1966 Games. “Gentleman Sprinter” was a treasure trove of Indian and world sports with a photographic memory of yesteryear – from cricket to hockey to athletics.
Powell, who was India’s undisputed sprint king from 1963 to 1968, winning 17 gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters, competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in the 4x400m relay with Milkha Singh and was part of the bronze medal winning 4×100 relay team at the Asiad in Bangkok in 1970. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1965. He also won the Marshal Tito Award.
Powell set a national record of 10.74s in the 100m (1964), with the world record being 10s achieved by Bob Hayes at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. In the 200m, the Bengalurian’s best was 21, 0 which he clocked in Coimbatore in 1962. Powell qualified for the 1962 Commonwealth Games, then the British Empire Games, in Perth, then the 1966 edition in Kingston, Jamaica. The 1962 Games turned out to be a big miss for Powell as India pulled out due to war with China.
“The next edition was in Jamaica and I was lucky to have the Duke of Edinburgh come and sit at our breakfast table,” Powell had told TOI in an interview.
“We trained in Russia for three weeks, but en route to Jamaica, we were stranded in Port of Spain for almost a week and were forced to compete without any training. Also, I injured my hamstrings two days before the race and I was forced to retire at the 30m mark,” Powell said.
The grandson of a Welshman who served in a munitions factory (Cordite) in the Nilgiris, Powell started his career as a killer pace bowler for the Colonial Sports Club at KGF and broke the jaws of a few noted batsmen. He started his athletics career in 1959 under coach Krishna, who ran Rangers Athletic Club, and he trained at Annaswamy Mudaliar School in Frazer Town. On his weekly Thursday off from work, he was at Sree Kanteerava Stadium doing the 300m time trials.
“I started playing cricket for ITI after joining the company in 1959. Our coach was the famous Benjamin Frank, the first Indian to score a century against the West Indies team which had the three Ws, during their tour of India in 1948.
Frank told Powell it would be difficult to stand out in a team sport and advised the youngster to switch to athletics. “My dream was to play cricket for the country, but it didn’t materialize,” Powell had said.
This move helped write a golden chapter in Indian athletics.
Powell was a humble person and we competed together in the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. We were together in training camps and competitions and I found him to be a very disciplined person. He was one of the fastest and most economical runners in the country at that time.
Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, 5th place, 1964 Olympics.
Kenny made friends through his excellent behavior. He was known for his fast start and we had a close race at the Madras National Games in 1968 where he propelled me to gold in the 100m. Kenny, Rajasekharan, Ramesh Tawde and I were all neck and neck but Kenny had more wins than the rest.
ASV Prasad, former national champion and ED, SAI.
Indian athletics gained momentum in the 1960s through the efforts of athletes like Kenny Powell who won sprint events at the National Open Championships and National Interstate Championships.
Adille J Sumariwalla, President of AFI.
KP was a gentleman sprinter. He always encouraged promising athletes and gave me valuable advice when I was his junior. He had fast legs. He was a natural athlete and didn’t need much training.
VR Beedu, Dronacharya scholarship trainer.
Name: Kenneth Lawrence Powell
Age: 82
Sports: Athletics (sprints) and Cricket (fast bowler)
Teams: ITI, Railways, TISCO
Olympic Games: 1964, Tokyo (100m, 4x400m, 4x100m)
Commonwealth Games — 1966, Kingston, Jamaica
Asian Games — 1970, Bangkok (bronze, 4x100m relay)
Awards: Arjuna (1965), Marshal Tito (1965)
National record: 100m – 10.74 (Tokyo Olympics, 1964)


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