Christophe LeMaitre running 9.98 at the French Champs, early July 2010, photo by PhotoRun.net.
So few races live up to the hype. This one did. Christophe Lemaitre, the French sensation, who at the age of 20, ran 9.98, survived the pressure of the European Championships and won handliy, in 10.06, running into a headwind! The feature on the European Champs site says it all, so we have posted the piece, in its entirety, right below!
In a superb final that fulfilled all expectations, except
possibly for the times, France‘s Christophe Lemaitre lifted the gold
medal, breaking the beam in 10.11 into a one-metre headwind, with Mark
Lewis-Francis of Great Britain collecting a surprise silver. Bronze was
also a surprise in the person of France’s Martial Mbandjock, last
year’s Mediterranean Games champion.
There was enormous expectation before the race and it did not
disappoint. Lemaitre had promised to do something special ever since he
broke the French record at his country’s trials with a time of 9.98.
He had lost to world and European indoor champion Dwain Chambers at
the European team championships but only by the slender margin of 0.03.
Could he turn the tables at the callow age of 20 years and 45 days on
the ageing legs of 32-year-old Chambers? In short, the answer was an
By winning in Barcelona, Lemaitre bridged a gap of 48 years,
becoming the first Frenchman since Claude Piquemal in 1962 to lift
gold, but it was what was happening behind him in the course of the
race that was to provide all the drama.
This was meant to be a showdown between the French record holder and Chambers but the drama turned out to be far more complex.
Chambers in lane three, separated by two men – Norway’s Jaysuma
Saidy Ndure and Mbandjock – from Lemaitre in six, got the best start,
Lemaitre the worst. But that, as it turned out, was not to have any
effect on the outcome. Quite the opposite.
Lemaitre had appeared tense and nervous before the start, breathing
deeply to calm his nerves. He was reported beforehand to be even more
nervous about what he was going to do in the subsequent press
conference. Not comfortable with speaking English, he was reported to
be concerned about how he would get through it. That trial would have
to wait though.
As the gun went Chambers leapt from his blocks, exploding into
action, while the tall Frenchman unfurled his long frame and set about
cutting down the deficit which had appeared in the blink of an eye.
Suddenly, a ripple ran through the crowd with the realisation that
Chambers was not the only challenger to Lemaitre. On his inside,
compatriot Lewis-Francis, who only got to the final on a fastest loser
ticket, was hustling his way past in the race of a lifetime. Not since
he won world junior gold had he looked so sharp in a major 100m final.
But Mbandjock, was also making dramatic headway as well as the defending champion, Obikwelu, coming back from retirement.
As they crossed the line, there was no doubt in Lemaitre’s mind that
he was the champion and the photo finish confirmed that. He immediately
went over to the side of the track to drape himself in the Tricolour
and face the cameras.
The minor medals, though, were a different matter. Lewis-Francis,
Mbandjock, Obikwelu and Chambers waited for what seemed an eternity for
the result to flash up on the stadium screen. Only Chamber’s resigned
smile, hands on head, suggested that he knew he was out of the medals.
Lewis-Francis, on the other hand was strutting around confidently
and his confidence was well founded. Despite the next four finishers
after Lemaitre being given the same time of 10.18, it was Lewis-Francis
who had lifted silver and Mbandjock bronze.
From Lewis-Francis to Chambers, the times were taken down to the
thousandths, Lewis-Francis timed at 10.172, Mbandjock 10.173, Obikwelu
10.174 and Chambers 10.178. It was a race fit for a championship.
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