Mark Lewis-Francis after winning the 100m at the 2000 IAAF World Junior Championships (© Getty Images)
Britain's teenage sprint sensation and IAAF World junior champion Mark Lewis-Francis has turned to top agent Kim McDonald to manage what is forecast to be a world class career.
The hottest young sprinting property widely tipped by many leading stars - including the 1996 gold medallist Donovan Bailey of Canada - to emerge as a major challenger for the 2004 title in Athens if he maintains his progress, has joined McDonald's world class stable of athletes.
Lewis-Francis 18, after placing third in the British Olympic trials raised eyebrows when ruling himself out of contention to compete in the Sydney Games preferring because of his youth to concentrate on the IAAF World Junior Championships.
The Birchfield Harrier's decision was justified when he returned from Santiago with two gold medals. In the 100 metres he equalled the championship best performance of 10.12 seconds and anchored the British 4x100 metres relay squad to a European junior record of 39.05 seconds.
Now the Midlander has turned to Teddington-based McDonald who in the past has predominantly looked after the interests of distance runners to manage what should be a lucrative financial career.
Over the years he has successfully managed the careers of Steve Ovett, Peter Elliott, Liz McColgan, Sonia O'Sullivan and a string of outstanding Kenyan's including multi World record holders Moses Kiptanui, Daniel Komen and Olympic 1,500 metres gold medallist Noah Ngeny.
McDonald one of the first to realise agents would become essential when the sport became professional in the mid-1980s has ventured for the first time into planning the career of a top sprinter although he also looks after the interests of Britain's No1 400 metres hurdler Chris Rawlinson.
McDonald said: "If Mark continues to progress the way he's been doing there's no reason why, by Athens when he won't be even 22, he shouldn't be one of the leading contenders for the title."
Lewis-Francis whose major aim this summer is to win the European junior 100 metres gold medal and gain an individual slot for the World Championships in Edmonton, said: "Last season I wanted to accomplish something I set out to do, which was win the World Juniors. That was partly because I'd been pipped to the European junior title last year. Now I want to win that as a warm-up to the World Championships."
As good as Lewis-Francis who tops this year's World junior list with a time of 10.10 seconds might be he knows the road to success Athens will be far from easy. But level headed since first emerging as a 16-year-old his link-up with the highly influential McDonald should ensure he gets into the right races in the World's major Golden League and Grand Prix meetings - essential competition before Edmonton.
Dave Martin for the IAAF