Christopher Lemaitre - All Talent, No Technique |



Christopher Lemaitre - All Talent, No Technique

Not 24 hours after he won the gold medal in the men's 100m event at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona, French youngster Christopher Lemaitre made the 200m final by winning his semi-final heat.

Lemaitre, the first white sprinter to break the 10-second barrier in 100m, finished the 200m race in 20.39 seconds.

Even former 200m world record holder Michael Johnson, who still holds the 400m world record, was impressed with the 20 year-old's display. "He can turn it on when he wants to," Johnson said as BBC Sport's athletics expert.

Lemaitre began his sprinting career only five years ago, at 15 years of age. Not until last year did he start weight training, meaning he has plenty of muscle mass to develop, muscles which are vital for a short distance sprinter.

So it's not only because of his skin colour that Lemaitre stands out. At 74kg and 6ft 3in, he cuts a scrawny figure next to his much bulkier competitors.

And compared to British veteran Dwain Chambers, who led Lemaitre after 30m in the 100m final, his technique is second-rate.

Sloppy Technique

While Chambers got a good start to his final, slowly coming upright with exemplary technique, body steady over the ground and arms at right angles along his sides, Lemaitre simply powered through and won the gold medal on raw talent.

According to former European champion Darren Campbell, Lemaitre can and should improve a number of aspects to his sprinting.

"It might sound strange to say it, but from a technique point of view, there's nothing I look at and think, that's really good," he said as Radio 5's athletics commentator.

Coming upright too suddenly, for instance, attracts unnecessary wind resistance. "It affects your rhythm," Campbell added.

"If you pop up fast, that's when you feel the wind, and you lose speed, because sprinting is all about momentum and rhythm," said Campbell.

And according to Campbell, Lemaitre hasn't got his upright phase spot-on either.

"He doesn't rock and roll through his body [once running upright], but because his foot placements aren't that consistent, he veers. In the first round he went out to the right hand side of the lane. If you stay straight, you'll go quicker."

In a way, Lemaitre's unpolished technique and reliance on sheer talent brings to memory Usain Bolt's remarkable Olympic final in Beijing, where a shabby start and pre-finish celebrations added as much as 0.10 seconds to his finishing time.

In Bolt's case, there was more to come, as he shaved 0.11 seconds off the world record he set in Beijing one year later, finishing in 9.58 seconds in the 2009 World Championships.

Competing with the Elite?

Lemaitre's finishing times are still a far cry from today's top sprinters. His personal best of 9.98 seconds trails Bolt's world record by 0.40 seconds – heaps of time in sprinting terms – while his best 200m time is close to a second behind Bolt's.

In other words, Lemaitre's 9.98 seconds is something his best competitors could clock in their sleep. Breaking the 10-second barrier no longer warrants entry to an exclusive club: Lemaitre joins 70 other sprinters in having done so since 1968.

Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell has run under 10 seconds over 60 times, and does so practically every time he runs.

That said, Lemaitre has run faster than Carl Lewis had at 20, and his long stride, while slightly short of Bolt's, carries the potential to take him far – and fast.

First up will be Friday’s 200m final in Barcelona, one that Lemaitre is favoured to win.