© Copyright – 2012 – Athletics Illustrated

Twenty-two-year-old Christophe Lemaitre, is a French sprinter who specializes in both the 100m and 200m distances. He is a national record holder at both, having run 9.92 and 19.80, respectively. The former carries with it a slightly (at the moment) under-heralded mystique, as he is the very first white person to run under 10 seconds for the 100m distance. Perhaps with time, like Roger Bannister’s first sub-four-minute mile, the importance of this benchmark will grow. He said, “In my eyes, sprinting has never been a matter of skin colour. It is a superfluous matter.”

His raw talent was noticed in 2005 during a 50m race that he had entered after having just joined a track club. He set the national record in that race, he was just 15 at that time.

At the age of 20, he won the 100m, 200m and the 4×100m relay titles at the 2010 European Championships. He was the first sprinter ever to win the triple.

Lemaitre is a student at Savoy University. He is studying Electrical Engineering and is currently training for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Christopher Kelsall: After running your first “sub-10” you said, “I will be recognised as the first white man to run it, but today is mainly historical for myself…! It’s not about colour, it’s about hard work.”

Do you think that perhaps more non-West Africans will achieve this benchmark in the future and that perhaps the reason why you were the first has to do with the lack of participation from non-West Africans?

Christophe Lemaitre: First of all, I never put myself in the skin of a white man when I began sprinting and frankly colour didn’t cross my mind. When I started getting fast, and the day I ran sub-10’’ in particular, the fact that I was the first white man to achieve that was really something the media wanted to convey – it was simply a fact, a fact which finds a place in the ‘historical embellishment’ of the 100m. That’s how it is and I have to put up with it. All I hope is that my performance will inspire as many young people as possible to take up sprinting – whatever their colour and if my performance can rid white runners of their hang-ups then so much the better! Sprinting is a really interesting sporting discipline – especially in competition – the explosive elements really appeal to me. As for the rest, it’s all in the mind and the amount of work you put in… there aren’t any other secrets.

CK: Are you going to study electrical engineering in the future?

CL: Yes, I currently benefit from a flexible timetable at university in France’s Savoy region, where I study electrical engineering and industrial data processing – the business of renewable energy.

CK: In regards to doing what you refer to as “hard work”, distance runners often talk in terms of quantity of mileage, as a sprinter, can you describe a day of hard work?

CL: A day of training can certainly be hard but another problem I have is linking together a series of tough sessions over several days – when you arrive at the stadium and the previous day’s work can still be felt in your muscles. Other than that, the sessions I don’t like are the aerobic sessions – they really infuriate me!

CK: What are your expectations for the London 2012 Olympic Games?

CL: I can’t comment fully until I’ve decided if I’m doing both the 100 and 200m. One thing for sure though is that the 200m is still a priority and my aim is to score a podium place over this distance. I want to be in the top three! For me the toughest thing will be to make the final – once you’ve got your ticket, anything’s possible. Then there’s the 4x100m too, and there we’ll be aiming for a podium place with the French Team.

CK: Apparently your weak spot is with your start. Have you been able to improve on it these past few months?

CL: Naturally I’m particularly focusing on working on this weak point and when I look back at my race in Rome it drives me a bit crazy. We’re continuing to work on the drive phase with my coach and I hope that’ll come good. That’s the key for me. The rest of it is okay…

CK: Would an explosive start be the difference maker between simply making the final and making the top three?

CL: Over 100m the start is bound to be crucial. For me it’s the drive phase, because I wasn’t slow to react in Rome for example, it’s really the drive phase which is playing tricks on me. Being in the race also plays on your mind a lot – your mind has got to be on it or your body won’t follow. Losing three metres at the start shakes your confidence! It depends on the profile of the runners. I know that my strength is never admitting I’m beaten – I’ll never give up in a race but I have ignored negative performance sometimes. I realise that at the level I want to be at now, I can no longer do this – there’s no more room for mistakes.

CK: What did Dwain Chambers say to you after you defeated him at the European Championships?

CL: I recall the excitement and he came over to congratulate me – but sadly I can’t tell you exactly what he said because I don’t really know. However, he was very warm and sincere and I appreciated his gesture.

CK: It appears that your English has improved over the past year. Are you now working on your Jamaican accent?

CL: Yes, I’m particularly focusing my attentions on a Jamaican accent! 😉 But the American accent could come in useful too. You have to know how to travel and adapt in our world, which is something else I’m continuing to work on and I still have a way to go with that. However, I hope that my sprinter friends are working on their French accent too… it may come in useful!

CK: Which do you prefer football or rugby?

CL:  I prefer football and I’m a big fan of OM from Marseille..

CK: Is it true that you prefer the 200m over the 100m? If this is so, what is it that you like about the 200m?

CL: Yes it’s true, but that simply comes down to getting my best results over 200m. Quite honestly though, the 100m is a distance I adore. When I started out with the 200m I found it so difficult that I wasn’t up for continuing with it at all and then through work the results began to get very convincing over this distance the more I appreciated it. For now my frame is best expressed over this distance – I can really open out my stride. But the 100 is still my favourite distance.