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News18 Oct 2000


Lewis-Francis fulfils the predictions

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Mark Lewis-Francis after winning the 100m at the 2000 IAAF World Junior Championships (© Getty Images)

Mark Lewis-Francis was the overwhelming favourite for the world junior men's 100 title and he lived up to all the expectations placed on him both back at home in Britain, and by everyone around the world who has seen the phenomenal 18-year old in action.

He shot out of his blocks on a cool spring evening in Santiago and after 20 metres, after briefly being held by the Saudi Arabian Salem Al-Yami, who was to eventually get the silver medal, there was little doubt who was going to be the victor.

The teenager from the English Midlands stopped the clock at 10.12, equalling the championship record set by his compatriot Christian Malcolm two years ago in Annecy.

Al-Yami finished a distant second in 10.38, for his country's first ever medal at the world juniors. But all eyes were on Lewis-Francis, who follows in the spikeprints of the likes of Andre Cason, Ato Boldon and Francis Obikwelu as the winner of the blue riband event.

His delight, despite no one ever seriously contemplated another winner after seeing him run 10.13 in Tuesday's quarter-final, was evident as he lay prostate on the track just soaking in the elation after what he had achieved.

"I'm overwhelmed, this is what I've wanted all year. I went into winter training last year wanting to be a world junior champion because coming second at the European juniors left me so disappointed," Lewis-Francis said.

"Coming out here, winning the world title and showing everyone what I am capable of means a lot to me."

Despite being the world's fastest junior this year, with a time of 10.10 run in August at the British Grand Prix was there anyone that could have taken the title away from him?

"The French guy that beat me last year at the European juniors worried me a bit and the guy from Saudi Arabia looked good but, apart from my team mate Tyrone, that's it really. I thought the

Americans were going to be something special but they could not do it on the day," Lewis-Francis responded.

Lewis-Francis passed over the chance to go Sydney last month, after qualifying by finishing third at the British Olympic trials, but he feels whole-heartedly that the sacrifice was worthwhile.

"I don't regret not going to the Olympics. I know I would have been too young. The experience here is like a big stepping stone. Hopefully next year for the world championships in Canada I'll make the 4x100 relay team but I'm focusing again on the European junior championships."

If there was any slight sense of regret it was that he did not improve on the three-year old world junior record of 10.06, held by another Briton Dwain Chambers.

The slightly chillier conditions on Wednesday precluded any superlatives, despite Santiago's helpful altitude of 400 metres.

"I was feeling good. I know I could have run a lot faster today but it's all about winning a race and getting the gold medal, it's not about times. Hopefully in Grosseto (venue for the 2001 European juniors championships) next year it'll go, that's a fast track."

"As soon as I get back to Britain I'm going to have a rest. And then I'll get back into winter training. There's going to be some hard training in the coming months."

For Lewis-Francis that means maybe increasing his training load to three days a week.

Woe betide every other sprinter when he decides that his body is mature enough to handle working out every day.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF

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