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The prodigy with barriers to beat

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Tom Fordyce | 22:22 UK time, Monday, 26 July 2010

Headline or footnote?

When France's Christophe Lemaitre clocked 9.98 seconds to win the 100m at his national championships a fortnight ago, word zipped around the world several thousand times faster than he had run.

"The first white man under 10 seconds" roared the headlines.

L'Equipe pushed Le Tour to one side and stuck the gangly 20-year-old from Annecy on its front page. Sports fans who hadn't noticed athletics since Usain Bolt last summer were suddenly talking track again.

At the World Championships in Berlin 12 months ago, Lemaitre came and went almost unnoticed, disqualified for a false start in his first round heat. Not so in Barcelona. With the heats of the 100m due to get underway on the first day of competition, he is the name on everyone's lips.

But maybe not quite for the right reason.

First the time. Ten seconds was once the big benchmark for sprinting, just as four minutes was for the mile. Go under 10 and you were world class.

That was then. It's not only Usain, although when the world's best is running 9.58 seconds you're not even in the finish line freeze-frame at 9.98. In Berlin, Tyson Gay ran 9.71 seconds for silver and almost no-one remembers.

More than 70 men have run the 100m in under 10 seconds. Asafa Powell alone has done it more than 60 times. Just as the four-minute mile has been superseded in the half-century since it was first achieved, so the 10-second barrier is no longer the yardstick to use.

What of the cultural significance? In an era of football hegemony, athletics needs all the big stories it can get. If Lemaitre's performance draws some attention to the struggling sport, maybe that's a good thing - when Australia's Matt Shirvington clocked 10.03 secs as a 19-year-old in 1998, he had a clause inserted in his kit contract promising him $1m if he were to knock a further four hundredths off his PB.

Lemaitre himself is not so sure of the significance of his run, saying: "It was my goal to break it of course - one has to run under 10 seconds in order to be part of the world's best. I will be recognised as the first white man to run it, but today is mainly historical for myself."

Christophe Lemaitre will carry France's hopes in the 100m in BarcelonaLemaitre has claimed that his personality is "a little introverted"

He is more concerned about what his time means as a Frenchman (beating Ronald Pognon's former national record of 9.99 sec) and as an athlete than as a Caucasian.

Even as a European he has a long way to go before he can to match Francis Obikwelu's continental record of 9.86 sec.

"Talking about white sprinters, I find this absurd," he said. "I had a good race, I broke the record, but there is not much more to say. I did what I had to do, that's it. This story is too much. I don't like it."

Neither is Lemaitre the first man not of West African descent to go sub-10. Australia's Patrick Johnson, who has an Irish father and Aboriginal mother, ran 9.93 sec in 2003; Frankie Fredericks of Namibia ran under 10 seconds 27 times.

A quick quiz question for you. Who was the previous fastest white man over 100m? If you said Marian Woronin of Poland, hats off to you. If you didn't, you might just have highlighted the insignificance of the record.

Lemaitre's run was special. It was very special. But it has far more to do with his age, back-story and technique than his ethnic background.

He is just 20 years old. At the same age, neither Asafa Powell nor Carl Lewis had run as fast.

He is also a sprinting novice. Football-obsessed as a youngster, the 2003 World Championships in Paris passed him by completely, and he first joined a running club just five years ago. "My knowledge of athletics is poor," he admits.

Despite that, his progression has been remarkable. After a single year of training he had gone under 11 seconds; at the World Juniors two years ago he won the 200m in 20.83 secs. The following year he won 100m gold at the European Juniors and smashed Dwain Chambers' junior record into the bargain.

He is also a long, long way from being the finished article. His body is yet to fully mature - at just 74kg despite standing a shade under 6ft 3in, he does not yet have the upper body strength of a top sprinter - and he only began weight training a year ago.

His technique is at best a work in progress. His start is poor - he is slow from the blocks and comes upright far too quickly - and his arm movement all over the place.

"I still do not really consider myself as a professional athlete," he says. "I am still learning."

His septuagenarian coach Pierre Carraz will work on that. What he does have at his disposal is the natural advantage of a long stride length (even if it is not quite the 41 strides Usain takes over 100m) and blistering speed once he is into his running.

He may yet turn out to be a better sprinter over 200m than 100m. He already has the French record, run the day after breaking the 100m mark, and is the clear favourite to take gold in the longer sprint at the Estadio Olympico.

First up, in the warmth of Tuesday evening, come the heats of the 100m, with the final to follow on Wednesday night.

In Lemaitre's way stands Britain's Dwain Chambers, long in the tooth at his fourth Europeans but running fast again after his doping violations and subsequent adventures in American football and rugby league.

While the French prodigy is marginally quicker this year (by just one hundredth of a second) Chambers came out on top when the two met at the European Team Championships earlier this summer.

"I think he's still going to be riding on the confidence that he has a faster time than me," says Chambers. "But if anything it's just spurred me on to go out and do even better. Experience is the one ace card that I have."

"I consider him the favourite," admits Lemaitre. "I'm the principal outsider."

Chambers, who seems to have found a measure of inner peace after his tumultuous years in the sprinting wilderness, will not seek to intimidate his younger rival.

"I don't want to frighten the kid. I want him to have fun. My three kids have taught me patience, so I have to exercise that.

"The days of running angry are done for me. On that start line I just want to focus, continue smiling and enjoy what I do best. That seems to be working so far."

Chambers' chequered career reads as a cautionary history of recent European sprinting. Lemaitre's might just be the future.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    "It's not only Usain, although when the world's best is running 9.58 seconds you're not even in the finish line freeze-frame at 9.98."

    What a bizarre "fact"... This depends on the rate at which someone runs the 100m. Often the last 60m are ran the fastest, but if someone were to run the first 98m in 9 seconds, and then take another 0.98 seconds to reach the finish line, they would be in the freeze-frame!

  • Comment number 2.

    Not sure what this article is trying to say, but the only interesting fact and the only reason we are talking about this is because he's the first white man under 10 seconds. It would be interesting to see how quick he can go but I have a feeling not much faster. Look at sprinters like MLF who were prodigious youngsters but then bulked up added too much weight and then got slower.

    Your attempts to put Frankie Fredricks and Patrick Johnson as non blacks is laughable and all the other sub 10 seconds Euopeans were of African or Carribean descent. Francis Obikwelu wasn't even European until he changed his allegiance from Nigeria to Portugal.

    It will be interesting to see if a white man can really make an impact and get into the 9.8's. We can ignore the likes of Bolt and to a lesser extent Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay as 9.5's and 9.6's are unlikely to become common place just because one guy can do it.

  • Comment number 3.

    That depends on the size of your freeze frame.
    At an even pace Lemaitre at 9.98 would be 4 metres away when Bolt crossed the line in 9.58.
    At St Denis last week he was nowhere to be seen.
    He's run under 10 seconds, good on him, but his time is of no interest unless we decide to stage a whites only meeting.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ah, but who was the last white man to win an Olympic Gold in 100m?
    I think it was Alan Wells in 1980 whern most of the world boycotted Moscow. (ironically because they had troops in Afghanistan)

  • Comment number 5.

    @chrisironside

    It is not a bizarre way to look at it at all, in fact they way you've described how it could happen is much more bizarre. You would have had to come to a standstill and walk over the line to complete the final 2 metres in 0.98 secs, why would anybody do that?

    Now thats bizarre.

  • Comment number 6.

    Chrisironside
    "Often the last 60m are ran the fastest," WRONG! they are in fact NEVER run the fastest. The middle of the race is always the fastest, as the start is slower on average, because you start at 0, then everyone is getting faster and faster until they reach max velocity and then everyone is slowing down as they come towards the line, because of exhaustion of the short term fuels for energy replacement.
    Plus, try that trick you suggested (running really really fast for 98m and then running really really slowly for 2m0 in your car with ABS and it is difficult, try it sprinting and it's impossible

  • Comment number 7.

    Get a grip chrisironside, if you actually thought at all about your comment, you'd realise that what you've written is factually correct but in reality completely impossible. In order for a human to run 98m in 9 seconds they'd need to be far far faster than Usain Bolt, and then to run the last 2 metres in almost a second? Unless they hit an obstacle it just couldn't happen.

    Don't pick holes in an obviously accurate statement just because in fantasy-land it could be factually disproved.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think it this guy is highly significant to athletics, if not his time of 9.98. As the article says, he's very much in development. Why is he significant? Well, it's never healthy when youngsters see no point in trying a sport or event because they perceive it to be only for another group - whether that be ethnic, social class or other. The sport of athletics will be richer and more diverse if a white male can break into the sprinting elite or if the middle and long distances aren't dominated by east Africans; just as (say) rowing would be if more kids from inner city, working class backgrounds aspired to and felt like they could achieve, success in the sport.

  • Comment number 9.

    Rob
    I am a PE teacher and, wherever I have been I have managed to get a link with a rowing club and get my comprehensive school kids involved in rowing, sometimes only on ergos, but often getting onto the water. I have to say the ARA are great at encouraging kids from all backgrounds, but you are VERY right about youngsters' (and their parents') own perceptions holding them back, so anything which enourages another group to be involved in sport is very positive.

  • Comment number 10.

    I don't mean to sound racist, because I'm not, but whenever ablack person does something for the first time, everybody goes potty for it. Now a white man has done this for the first time, surely he should get some of the limelight he deserves?

  • Comment number 11.

    I will look forward to seeing Lemaitre against Chambers. It'd be great to see a white sprinter challenging for top honours.
    What's with the pedantic ranting about the freeze-frame? Get a life, please.

  • Comment number 12.

    Dalgrush "Your attempts to put Frankie Fredricks and Patrick Johnson as non blacks is laughable"

    That's not what the article says at all! It says that they are not of West African decent which is completely different.

  • Comment number 13.

    Dalgrush your "laughable" as Ruf67 said he didn't say that
    Try reading it right b4 passing your judgment!

  • Comment number 14.

    Nice article Tom, it's scary to think that a 100m race is considered slow now if no-one breaks 9.9, and Powell, Gay and Bolt regularly break the world records from only a few years ago.

    We hear occasionally the argument that black athletes have a genetic advantage over white athletes in sprints due to having, on average, more fast-twitch muscle fibres and therefore more natural explosive power, and it is hard to ignore that the fastest men and women are, without exception, black - I've never read anything definitive or convincing to that end, I was wondering if you had, or is it just an unproven rumour?

  • Comment number 15.

    I still think Frankie Fredricks is a good outside tip for a medal at the worlds ;-)

    The only people to who this is not important to are those who refuse to acknowledge race and its underliying (and overlying) issues. Of course it's massive that a white man is under 10 seconds....just like it would be massive if, say a black man won a stage of the TDF. It's almost like a first becuase it's been so long since it last happened. Isn't it 30 years since a white man go to the Olympic or World 100m finals? If someoen can do it soon it will almost be like winning a medal I'm sure. But the fact is that 9.98 isn't a huge time these days so he has another good few hunneds to knock off his PB before he can be taken seriously.

    In the world of Vanilla Ice 'go whiteboy go whiteboy go!'

  • Comment number 16.

    I do think it is quite interesting as a story, though it's hardly headline material. Paula Radcliffe has proven that caucasian athletes can set world records over long distances, however over the short distances they've never been close. It'll be interesting to see if Lemaitre can compete at the top end of sprinters, or if it's just a case that modern sprinters are becoming so much faster that the old yardstick isn't really relevant. From a scientific standpoint, it will be interesting to see how much of a factor biology plays.

  • Comment number 17.

    I was a bit worried when I saw this blog. Mainly because I expected (A) a generic BBC viewpoint that alkwardly tries to shrink away from acknowledging it as a story and (B) a bunch of suspiciously motivated responses trying to draw questionable parallels to media attention of previous "firts" for non-whites in traditionally white dominated areas.

    Given this I was very happy and interested to read Rob Herbi's reponses which are both worthy of discussion and do not appear agenda driven in the slightest. I largely agree Rob however certain sports will always have strongholds in certain national, or sub-national groupings so your ability to braoden its appeal will always be limited. Also if you travel to Ethiopia and see the love of running and pride in their athletes suddenly watching East Africans dominate doesn't seem quite so removed.

  • Comment number 18.

    What is most interesting about Lemaitre is unlike Lewis-Francis and other flatter-to-deceive juniors, he is tall and lithe - rather like Bolt in fact. If he can resist the temptation of putting on too much weight he will theoretically develop in the same way as Bolt: become stronger and faster, but remain supple and, of course, have the huge advantage of fewer strides per race than other competitors.
    Unlike Bolt he is a latecomer to athletics, not sure whether that will be a hindrance or a help in the long term.

    Like Lemaitre himself, when I saw the record it didn't occur to me that he was the first white man under 10 seconds. I was more intrigued by the fact he's French, relatively unknown, and very young.

  • Comment number 19.

    Sports fans who hadn't noticed athletics since Usain Bolt last summer were suddenly talking track again.
    --------------

    Errr, no they were not.

    Anyone who knows or cares anything about Athletics will realise that breaking 10 seconds, while an important mental barrier for some athletes (notably Brits, regardless of colour), only puts an athlete in contention for a world/olympic final spot and will have to be bettered by another 0.2 seconds to have a chance at a medal.

    Meanwhile those with ony a passing interest will possibly note teh name but nothing more.

    Only those with a point to push (you know the kind) will care about this. Just the same as no real rugby fans cared about the colour of Chester Williams skin while playing for South Africa in the RWC or Mkaya Ntini's heritage when opening the bowling.

    Lemaitre himself has the right attitude, he doesn't seem to care about being the "first white man" to do anything. Good on him I say.

  • Comment number 20.

    I've always thought it was strange how black guys dominate athletics anyway. It is rubbish to suggest that black guys are quicker than white guys it may be that they gravitate more towards sprinting than longer distances (except Africans) or even that they are more interested in athletics generally than white boys at an early age but are they really faster genetically, I think not.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    20. At 10:25am on 27 Jul 2010, TT_Swindlehurst wrote:
    It is rubbish to suggest that black guys are quicker than white guys ... but are they really faster genetically, I think not.
    -----------------------------------------------------------

    When political correctness goes too far...

  • Comment number 23.

    Why is this significant? Would there be a similar headline if a black or asian man won the tour de france or world rowing championships?

  • Comment number 24.

    23. At 10:58am on 27 Jul 2010, Abid Mian wrote:
    Why is this significant? Would there be a similar headline if a black or asian man won the tour de france or world rowing championships?
    --------------------------------------------------------------------

    Yes! Are you insane? Of course there would. As it is, we're probably still quite a long way from that happening but when it does it will DEFINTELY be newsworthy.

  • Comment number 25.

    So in thirty odd years the time for a white man has gone down by 0.02 seconds while worldwide its gone down by 0.3 seconds in the same period. It doesn't look like the gap is getting closer does it! They need to get him down to Ja to get his times down to something respectable and maybe get him on green banana and dasheen while he's there;)

    Maybe its just a psychological barrier.

    Leave chrisironside alone - if you put a wall 98m down the track that would do the trick lol.

  • Comment number 26.

    Who cares? Why do we insist on making a big song and dance over what is , in essence, a distinctly average performance. He doesn't stand a chance winning a major medal against the world's best - he might scrape into a final if he's lucky. I don't believe that this has been a mental barrier preventing other white sprinters from reaching it - simply that genetically whites have been unable to compete, I've read it is something to do with muscle fibre's - whether that is correct or not I'm not sure. However, it appears we are again celebrating an average performance. Kids of all cultures and skin colour should be hoping to attain their best possible times and their goals should always be the times they dare to achieve, not to base their goals on the colour of their skin.

  • Comment number 27.

    On the one hand, the stats about the ethnicity of the sub-10s 100m sprinters is startling. On the other, there have been outstanding white athletes at much shorter distances than Paula Radcliffe: Jeremy Wariner has clocked 43.45 for 400m, and Pietro Mennea held the 200m world record at 19.72 for 17 years. From that perspective, it seems more like a curious anomaly being rectified that a white sprinter has finally broken 10.00 for 100m; particularly considering that Marian Woronin ran 10.00 when the world record was 9.93 or thereabouts, and things are a bit quicker now! So a curious, quirky news item, but not more, really.

  • Comment number 28.

    Surprised the BBC even allowed this to be published - whatever happened to not discussing - no, even mentioning - race in sports?
    How about an article celebrating the dominance of Kenyans and Ethiopians in the middle and long distances - that should stir up some debate. Or Whites in shotput, javelin (wait until the Maasai get interested in this one - ever seen them throw a spear?) and weight-lifting?
    I watched this kid run the other day - he is a good talent, can get better, but can do without all the attention. And no, there won't be any White athletes winning sprinting gold at the Olympics any time soon.
    Next?

  • Comment number 29.

    Sexy Tartan I'll give him Patrick Johnson but I'm keeping Francis Obikwelu and Frankie is hardly a million miles away! Do you have any point of your own to make by the way

  • Comment number 30.

    'Why is he significant? Well, it's never healthy when youngsters see no point in trying a sport or event because they perceive it to be only for another group - whether that be ethnic, social class or other. The sport of athletics will be richer and more diverse if a white male can break into the sprinting elite or if the middle and long distances aren't dominated by east Africans.'

    The point is that there are plenty of white sprinters in the Europe and the UK and its got nothing to do with them perceiving blacks are quicker so they won't try - they do try, but only a handful can compete with the best. Black sprinters happen to be better because they are genetically predisposed to be faster.

    You only need to look at american football or increasingly in rugby, the wide-receivers are by in large black (just as quarter-backs seem to be mainly white) and increasingly rugby wingers at the top level are black.

  • Comment number 31.

    @Dalgrush

    Patrick johnson was not black or white, Nor of african decent, His mother was a Australian aborigine and his father a White irishmen, So he is half white and half aboriginal, So if we are going to talk small margins it is perfectly acceptable to say he is white, Because he is half white, and 0% African so your comment is actually the "Laughable" one, Fredericks i agree, but you are miles out on Johnson.

  • Comment number 32.

    @TT_Swindlehurst

    I think it is clear black people are better at sprinting on a whole, Just like white people are clearly better at swimming, I believe it is all genetics, Just think how many black people have one olympic swimming medals, and how many white people have won sprint medals, However i do believe there are some white people who can run that fast but black people are faster, Fact.

  • Comment number 33.

    I appreciate the cultural significance of this; As a black man, when Tiger Woods entered the golf arena and succeeded, that was kind of a big deal; When Lewis Hamilton joined formula 1, again, a big deal; the Williams' sisters with Tennis, we could keep this up for every sport where a particular ethnic group has dominated... The point I'm trying to make is that yes, we should celebrate prodigious talent in ANY sport, regardless of background, but the media will always pick up on these things as it's 'news-worthy'. I think this kid is gonna be very interesting, I wish him all the best, and to be fair to him it's quite an achievement- however in order for him to progress unhindered by the 'great white hope' tag, we need to learn from previous mistakes of heaping unnecessary pressure on the lad - look what happened to Craig Pickering...believed his own hype, got embroiled in matters that were of no concern/relevance to him (the Chambers issue) and has alarmingly turned into the 'white MLF' - promised much and failed to deliver. I think with Bolt around, his task to 'challenge' him at THIS stage seems impossible. These guys (Bolt, Gay, Powell etc) run sub-10 in their sleep, I don't believe Powell or Gay have the requisites to challenge Bolt while he's healthy so maybe this kid, in a couple years may do. Either way, we need to get off the colour of his skin issue and encourage him to REALLY start training.

  • Comment number 34.

    To me skin colour is not the concern here...

    The fact is that a 20yo non British 100m runner can run sub 10secs - and he has only had 5 years of athletics training and has a poor poor start and no technique.

    Doesn't bode well for two years time when the likes of Bolt, Gay, Powell will still be around, this young sprinter will still be improving and Chambers will still be banned from the Olympics or even retired

    Will we even manage to get a Brit in the final?

  • Comment number 35.

    Ridiculous censorship.

    My post included no names, no accusations - so how is it potentially defamatory?

    I am merely suggesting there is a sinister reason why times are so ridiculously fast these days, while also pointing out that I think Bolt, Gay and Powell are clean.

  • Comment number 36.

    Can you just give the lad some credit, he hasn't been running long and has broken the 10 second barrier as a twenty year old. Sure at present he can't compete with the likes of Bolt, Gay et al but he's got time on his side. He may be French but it's good to see someone else (potentially for the future) mixing it with the Jamaicans and Americans.

  • Comment number 37.

    With regard to sprinting, there has to be some genetic component that favours those of West African origin. Remember what we are talking about is at the elite level, and when people are very highly trained, and an advantage of something like 0.5% between the best Afro-Caribbean sprinters and those of European ancestry (excluding Bolt, who is clearly a freak because of his physiology), so it's not an enormous difference but just something that gives the black guys a slight competetive edge. By comparison, the domination of east africans in distance running probably reflects a combination of both genetic and environmental advantages (as there aren't European-raised guys of the same origin that are competetive).

    It would be good if Lemaitre could improve by a further 0.1s, as he would then be in the real elite and would undoubtedly provide a good role model for many prospective sprinters..

    We were having a similar discussion on the cycling board about the relative under-representation of anything other than white European riders (or USA / Australians of the same ethnic background). In this case the conclusion was a combination of relatively limited opportunity (competetive cycling equipment is expensive and relatively fragile, and black European populations tend to be centred in urban environments not conducive to cycle racing) and a lack of role models.

  • Comment number 38.

    WHY oh WHY must the BBc always come down on the side of the Politicaly Correct?

    The hook to get people to read this story was; - "Missing the story:
    Should we care that a white man has run under 10 seconds for the 100m?"

    This article does not even try to answer its own question, the entire piece was written with the answer no in mind.

    Personally for me it does matter (a little), although I am not able to clarify why without being accused of having racist tendencies!

    But yet again the good 'ol Beeb is driving the pace of Political Correctness!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    Interesting article although it would be more so if this guy makes a final or runs a few really good times.

    Ha would it be big news if a black guy won the TDF? Are you insane? Was it big news when Tiger started to dominate golf?

    Agree with all the comments about it been good for children to see different races etc compete in all the different sports. I'm sure there are kids playing golf who wouldn't have if not for Tiger. It doesn't even have to be race, the TDF became much more popular when LAnce started winning it. Even rugby in Ireland has exploded in popularity due to the success of the national team.

    Small successes can have big impacts on children and their perception of sports, and if that encourages them to have a go then its all good.

  • Comment number 40.

    It is interesting to point out that whilst Woronin (a so-so competitor without major honours) gets a mention, neither Allan Wells, Pietro Mennea, or Konstantinos Kenteris are mentioned, especially since they are the last winners of Global Championship sprints and not of West African descent. Throw into the pot the honours of white sprinters such as Geir Moen, Dougie Walker, and Craig Pickering and you have a reasonable history of white sprinters.
    There may be a stereotyping within British schools which encourages black kids to progress in sprints whereas white kids are more likely to diversify.

    Oh, Jack Ward - there are only 2 black swimmers I can think of any note: Anthony Nesty - 1988 Butterfly Olympic champion from Surinam, and Eric the Eel, famous for "winning" his solo heat...

  • Comment number 41.

    I think there are a lot of double standards being exercised here. It wasn't so long ago that our newscreens were filled with Barack Obama being hailed as the first 'Black President of the USA' to universal acclaim. Today I hear Darren Campbell refusing to acknowledge Lemaitre as the Great White Hope, and people suggesting the Lemaitre phenomenon is nothing to do with skin colour.

    If it was acceptable for Barack Obama's skin colour to be a significant story, why is the fact that the story of Lemaitre being the first white man to break 10 seconds so politically incorrect for some?

  • Comment number 42.

    By any measure sub 10 is a great run, just as would be making the Olympic final, whether you are black, white, Namibian, Irish-Australian or an Eskimo. It's somewhat uncharitable to suggest sub 10 is neither here or there in the scheme of things - 99.99% (at least I am sure) of athletes competing globally never get near that time. It's a great run from a seemingly self effacing, pleasant young man.

    I think it is of biological/geographical/physiological interest that most (not all) sub 10 runners are from NW Africa or are descendants from that part of the world. I am sure that this is no 'accident' and that there's likely to be some genetic and environmental advantages being passed onto to persons from this part of the world.

    It's no different to the clear natural advantage that runners from high altitude seem to have. They tend have different body types/shapes and have had the benefit of growing up in a lower oxygen environment.

    Genetic and environmental effects shape our world: some races are more susceptible to certain diseases and some people living in certain locations of the world tend to have greater chances of heart disease for example.

    Overall, it is difficult to disentangle the etiology (cause and effect) of the outcome/result but by sheer numbers and patterns that arise from large studies or assessments, one can draw very strong inferences. I think we can do this for our sub 10 runners. However, as the young Frenchman has shown, exceptions to the rule always exist. It will be fun to watch him have a go - we should enjoy it for what it will be. So, let's encourage everyone to enjoy their success -sport is as much about the journey as the victory, even for the athlete who wins: we all get older and retire and it is what you have learnt from the journey that often matters more than the actual results.

  • Comment number 43.

    And I've just researched, that whilst Allan Wells was criticised for not beating the Americans for the Olympic Gold, he subsequently did beat them all in a race in Germany later in 1980 and again at the 1981 World Cup and the Berlin Golden Sprint.

  • Comment number 44.

    Does it matter? Yes.

    It mattered when a black golfer first won a major championship; when a black footballer captained England etc. It will matter when an Indian footballer plays in the Premiership. It will matter when a black swimmer wins a gold in the 100m freestyle.

    It’s interesting that a white guy can run 100m in under 10 seconds. It would be even more interesting – following the above examples – if he can actually challenge the dominant group in the sport.

  • Comment number 45.

    Rob - interesting comment re role models.

    Hermmy - agreed. What's remarkable about Lemaitre's time is his age, inexperience, build and technique, far more than his ethnic background.

    stwl - nice point re Woronin.

    Mancun Ian - agree with that

    Everyone - you picking Dwain or Lemaitre to win the 100m? I'm saying Dwain - just...

  • Comment number 46.

    @ comment 20 - TT_Swindlehurst - I thnk you need to do some research.

    Clearly if you don't think there are genetic differences that make black people faster in certain athletic disciplines then you are lost. Our bodies are not the same.

    Its a stupid stereotype but one that is quite accurate, black people and swimming. Now, whilst I know black people who can swim, many find it difficult to swim. Take the Caribbean islands and the many millions that have grown up in and around the sea, many can't swim. Why is this ? From my own experience I would say its because we find it more difficult to float and so more effort is necessary, which makes us tired quicker, which means we stop and don't get good.

    Whereas the white kids I grew up with mostly took to swimming instantly and could float when myself and the other black kids struggled.

  • Comment number 47.

    Well done to the guy, but the most important aspect of the debate is the emotional maturity of those posters (such as #47) who can recognise that racial differences do exist and can be discussed as facts of life.

    We seem to have largely got beyond the desperate need to pretend identical capability in the subject equality of the sexes, and if we can do the same racially then it lays the ground for more mature appreciation that different at sprinting and swimming doesn't mean intrimisically "better".

  • Comment number 48.

    Oops I obviously meant post #46!!

  • Comment number 49.

    # 46 the Hothead

    Interesting comment that, I confess it had not occurred to me before that floating might be part of the reason. I had assumed that swimming was cultural not genetic and that once the first black man had won an Olympic gold, then the floodgates would open, so to speak.

    It seems to me that it is when genetics (if that really is the case) and culture come together that you really see the fireworks in terms of talent and ability. Good examples of this are the NBA, obviously, but also rugby: the quantity of raw talent that emerges each year from the Pacific Islands is quite staggering given the population.

  • Comment number 50.

    'I think there are a lot of double standards being exercised here. It wasn't so long ago that our newscreens were filled with Barack Obama being hailed as the first 'Black President of the USA' to universal acclaim. Today I hear Darren Campbell refusing to acknowledge Lemaitre as the Great White Hope, and people suggesting the Lemaitre phenomenon is nothing to do with skin colour.

    'If it was acceptable for Barack Obama's skin colour to be a significant story, why is the fact that the story of Lemaitre being the first white man to break 10 seconds so politically incorrect for some?'

    Its probably because black people were discriminated against for such a long time, and for a large part of American history were seen as nothing more than slaves. To go from slavery to having a black president (who is also half white to be fair) is something to celebrate.

    As a white male, I don't have a history of repression to deal with in general and to be honest I don't care if this guy is a white sprinter or not. I would rather a British sprinter of any colour beat him.

  • Comment number 51.

    its a fact that people of african origin, are physically conditioned to be better athletes. bigger, stronger, faster. why else, is there a black monopoly on the podiums in athletics? boxing, ever since the era of marciano, dempsey, la motta, braddock and baer...its basically been black dominated in the middleweight to heaveyweight divisions. count from that era to the present day, and youll find that black heavyweights outnumber white. check the nfl and the nba. how many black b-ball players do you see, versus white? how many top white players do you see? same in nfl.

    to make a big deal of this...as its nothing more than a barely newsworthy novelty article, strikes me as being highly hypocritical and unethical. the fact is, the athlete in question knows hes nowhere near bolt in terms of class. and so does everyone else in that field

  • Comment number 52.

    'to make a big deal of this...as its nothing more than a barely newsworthy novelty article, strikes me as being highly hypocritical and unethical. the fact is, the athlete in question knows hes nowhere near bolt in terms of class. and so does everyone else in that field'

    To be fair, that is the role of journalists, to find an angle on a story that will inform but also create debate. All the author (Mr Williams) has done is do exactly this and he has created a great debate, so well done on him doing his job well.

    Boring uninteresting news stories do not create interest or debate,

  • Comment number 53.

    Sorry the author is that Fordyce bloke.

  • Comment number 54.

    this article has really annoyed me! the first white man under 10 seconds is a huge deal full stop. to run sub 10 even now is world class, if not least top european level!

    and even if black men are running sub 10 for fun these days, why on earth should that take away from the acheivement? its still the first time a white man has done it!

    im sure as heck if a black man won a medal in say swimming for example a huge fuss would be made and rightly so.

    as for your attempts to suggest fredricks and johnson were in some way white, or that because other european (black) sprinters have ran sub 10 it somehow takes away from lemaitres acheivement...well its desperately clutching at straws to me.

    this paritcular sentence had me baffled:

    'Lemaitre's run was special. It was very special. But it has far more to do with his age, back-story and technique than his ethnic background.'

    why exactly?

    we hear of athletes as young as 20, with a still developing teachnique, who've only been in their chosen sport for 5 or 6 years do great things all the time in pretty much all sports! that is nothing new. and it is surely not greater than something that has not happen in over 100 years of sprinting! it should be celebrated, not played down as if it means nothing!

  • Comment number 55.

    Great white sprinters I remember.........Alan Wells.............Valeri Borzov...........

    That reminds me. In the '70s and early '80s, white men won the Olympic gold at 100m in two out of three Olympics. Borzov did it in Munich in '72 and Wells did it in Moscow in '80. In fact, Borzov did the 100/200 double! Then there was the Italian 200m specialist back in the '70s, Pietro Mennea, who held the world record for a while. Way back in '68, Aussie Peter Norman split Tommie Smith and John Carlos to take silver in the Olympic 200m.

    Glory days!!

    I resent this racist rhetoric. The lack of white sprinters is clearly due to racial discrimination and lack of opportunity. They are being held back by the black man. The white man is in no way inferior to the black man when it comes to sprinting. To suggest such a thing is evidence of race bias.

    Jesse Jackson told me to write that.

  • Comment number 56.

    If it was acceptable for Barack Obama's skin colour to be a significant story, why is the fact that the story of Lemaitre being the first white man to break 10 seconds so politically incorrect for some?
    --------------
    It was NOT acceptable, frankly I found the whole issue of colour is that election to be repulsive, exactly the same as if it had been Hilary with women.

    It's not about being politically correct either, it's about stirring up people with prejudices and giving them a soap box to mouth off from.

    We will have beaten racism when we can remark about a persons skin colour without fear of reprisal AND we can remark on a persons achievements without notice of their skin colour.

  • Comment number 57.

    56. At 3:24pm on 27 Jul 2010, hackerjack wrote:

    We will have beaten racism when we can remark about a persons skin colour without fear of reprisal AND we can remark on a persons achievements without notice of their skin colour.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    What if it's an achievement because of their skin colour? Even if Lemaitre wasn't a good young prospect, it'd still be an achievement for a white male to run under 10 seconds. For a black guy, not so much. Accepting that doesn't make you racist or racially intolerant.

  • Comment number 58.

    'im sure as heck if a black man won a medal in say swimming for example a huge fuss would be made and rightly so.'

    Why? Black men have already won swimming medals at the Olympics, its already happenned so its not something new. A white man had never gone under 10 seconds until recently, its never happenned therefore it is a news story - people, please read up on journalism to understand what makes a story.

  • Comment number 59.

    unounos you do realise that white people have won medals in running, and sprints, more so than blacks have in swimming.


    Take seb, coe, ovett

    Wariner of the US is the worlds fastest 400 metre sprinter, hes white.

    Christophe lemaitre will be better than bolt. He has terrible technique and has not physicallyt developed, but omce he has he will break the 9.59 barrier with ease.

    It is an urban myth that black people are faster than white males.

    I think its more to do with the racist discrimination against white atheletes in sports, such as affirmative action etc, rather a athelete being judged on talent ad ability.

    The world heavyweight boxing champs are white, the world cup soccer team was 100 percent white, so why cant there be a white champion at sprinting?? Doesnt make sense???


  • Comment number 60.

    One thing I cherish about sport is that it is, generally speaking, a pure meritocracy. Achievement is derived from ability (mental and physical) and nothing else and there is on the whole little margin for excuses and politics. Of course there are anomalies here and there in the form of questionable refereeing/umpiring but, again, these are self-limiting and over time the top ranked are there on merit. The reality is blacks are superior at sprinting because they're genetically predisposed to it in the form of rich type IIx explosive fast twitch muscle. In the same way, whites are predisposed to swimming with lower bone densities (although this is anecdotal and culture maybe very much at play). Of course Lemaitre is shying away from this. What proud pro athlete wants to be known as the best in their ethnic division? It's so arbitrary and I agree with the article utterly insignificant. He seems like a nice kid though and I hope he gets better and better.

  • Comment number 61.

    Very interesting article. I didn't know Lamaitre took up athletics just 5 years ago and weight training only 1 year ago. Now I understand why his technique is poor to say the least. I don't know if he will ever have a good technique, considering his age and his height. However, if he reaches a medium level in technique he'll run sub 9,85, with a good technique probably sub 9,75. It will never be enough vs Usain but it'll be enough for Olympics and WC medals

  • Comment number 62.

    I don't care about skin colour or ethnicity. I believe in hard work and competition, and if this lad works hard enough to beat the best so be it.

    @60. you started well but soiled your argument with genetics mambo jambo. its how people create superiority illusions(I'm better than you nonsense). If you work hard you gain, simples. This is a non issue

  • Comment number 63.

    'The world heavyweight boxing champs are white, the world cup soccer team was 100 percent white, so why cant there be a white champion at sprinting?? Doesnt make sense???'

    a). The strength in depth of heavyweight boxing is awful at the moment. A black guy from the UK holds one of the titles after beating a lumbering giant from Ukraine (or somewhere like that) very easily. The Spanish football team are hispanic (thats not classified as white) and of course there could be a white sprinting champion, but that would be an exception to the rule - as in any sport someone with immense talent can emerge from any part of the world - heck a Chinese man may do it one day. However they would be in the minority, 90% of the semi-finalists will be from a black background which proves that on average blacks are better sprinters.

  • Comment number 64.

    @Sibaya

    Yes it may well be how superiority complexes arise and are consequently misinterpreted and abused. This is a shame but genetic differences are undeniably true nonetheless and, in the context of one ethnicity categorically out-performing another in sport for decades, are relevant in my view. So I can't agree it's mambo jambo I'm afraid. Of course hard work and so forth will enter the mix (genotype + environment = phenotype).

  • Comment number 65.

    You've done it again Forders (or is it Williams?!?), another article that stimulates some great debate but what makes you stand out for me is that you clearly read others comments and have the bottle to come back on and make other points - it winds me up that other bloggers don't bother. I imagine you'd appreciate it also if people read your article properly as MidnightOracle clearly didn't - nor did they read all of the previous comments otherwise he/she would have realised that you didn't say Fredericks was white just you were making the point he wasn't from West African descent.

    Midnight - how can you say that Black people aren't faster than white?!? Couloureds have been running sub ten seconds for the best part of 30 years and it is only now a white man has done it - and only one - surely he is the anomaly - and even then he is still stranded a fair few metres behind the 3 fastest men in the world (all black). There is no doubt he will improve but he is not the first young man (black or white) to run quick times - how many have lasted the course or gone on to improve - not all - look at Lewis Francis. He will never get to Bolt's times - yes he may go sub 9.9 but there is no way he'll get to Bolt, no way, no way no how, never, not in a million years. Bolt is a freak and we won't see his like for a long time. He'll dominate until he sees fit to retire. He is getting fed up with it already - the Michael Johnson documentary was fascinating - he is clearly losing his hunger if he turns up 2 and a half hours late for training. I think we will see him attempt the long jump and the 400 - he'll stop doing the 100 after London I think.

    Can't wait for it - hope I get some tickets...

  • Comment number 66.

    To get away from PC/non-PC jibes the cold un-opinionated facts are that human skeletal muscle contains a mixture of type 1 (slow) and type 2 (fast twitch). The proportion of these determine what type of exercise the muscle is best suited to, be it isovolumetric work eg weights or dynamic.

    The proportions can be changed, within limits, by exercise but the ranges possible are largely determined by race and gender.

  • Comment number 67.

    "The Spanish football team are hispanic (thats not classified as white)"
    ----------------------------
    hilarious - what 'colour' would you say torres was exactly? 'hispanic' isn't a race - it has a cultural meaning - and it refers mainly to people from spanish-influenced (i.e former colonies) countries/islands in Central America and the Caribbean. It has little to do with pain itself. Spain is in Europe. Indiginous Europeans are Caucasian. Look at a photo of the team, for Christ's sake....

  • Comment number 68.

    "In an era of football hegemony, athletics needs all the big stories it can get"

    I dont think it does.

    We have Bolt, Powell, Gay - the fastest humans in history, all racing at the same time. We are blessed.

    I hope this kid gets faster but really,hes not going to challenge the big boys.

  • Comment number 69.

    lol at unounos post...

    " a). The strength in depth of heavyweight boxing is awful at the moment. A black guy from the UK holds one of the titles after beating a lumbering giant from Ukraine (or somewhere like that) very easily. The Spanish football team are hispanic (thats not classified as white) and of course there could be a white sprinting champion, but that would be an exception to the rule - as in any sport someone with immense talent can emerge from any part of the world - heck a Chinese man may do it one day. However they would be in the minority, 90% of the semi-finalists will be from a black background which proves that on average blacks are better sprinters"


    What a poor post.

    Firstly the heavyweight boxing of old you could argue is not got depth as the athletic eastern europeans who are hard as nails were banned from competing professionally up to about 20 years ago. Vitali and wladimere klitscko are the most dominant heavy champions of all time, with adamek, and ponketkin the next best fighters...


    Also how can you claim toures, alonszo, puyol etc are not white?? lionel messi is white and if you called him anything otheriwse he would be very offended...

    Also hispanic is not a race, its a person who has been brough up on the cultural spanish empire, so you can be be black, white, mixed etc, hispainc has nothing to do with race.

    Spain were a 100m percent white football team that won the world cup, as were italy a 100 percent world cup football team that won in 2006.

    As is eminem the greatest rapper ever, chrispohe is the best young spinter ever and will dominate the sprinting world...

    I find it amsing that you call david haye who is half white hlaf black=black, but spain who are 100 percent white, not white??

    I think there is some jealously going on here with christophe and its very worrying to see, especially from unouus...

  • Comment number 70.

    It is amazing how many posts here, without a single ounce of science behind what they are saying, claim that black people have genetically superior ability to white people when it comes to sports and athletics specifically. I come from West Africa myself, and I'll tell you this: if you had to be of west African stock to do well in athletics, west African countries would keep all athletics olympic medals,World championship medals, and world records for good. How many olympic gold medals have west African countries got? zero (0). How many world records? zero (0). How many world championship golds? (0)! Nigeia alone has over 120 million potential 'genetically predisposed to sports' people! How come the US with only 12% black population has dominated in these sports? In fact the 12% black Americans are mostly mixed race, so taking your argument to its logial conclusion, you have to have some white in you to be 'superior' - which means that your race does not matter!
    Looking at numbers alone, whithout considering what other factor could be confounding the 'effects' you are seeing, and drawing inferences from these, could leave you looking very silly indeed.
    Just flip the word 'black' for 'white', and 'sports' for 'mathematics' and you'll see the stupidity of your assertions that your skin colour correlates with any ability at all.

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 72.

    For goodness sake! Black, white, red, blue, orange, pink etc! Who cares what colour he is? No wonder we've got endemic racism, because all we do is keep emphasising an insignificant difference. Isn't the issue that he needs to get to 9.57 seconds to be the best in the world and not what the colour of his skin is? Mind you, with our predilection to identify differences, has anyone run under 10 seconds who has 11 toes or 3 ears or even 2 noses. See? Total nonsense!! Now leave it alone: and find something of real interest to talk about!

  • Comment number 73.

    Tom,

    This is a decent point and worth writing about. Have you, or anyone else on this blog, read 'Bounce' the recent book by Matthew Syed, the former table-tennis champion and now sports journalist. He talks at length in the book about the perception that a lot of society has that specific genetic groups have specific physical advantages. West African sprinters, Ethiopian long distance runners etc... and goes to great length to dismiss them.
    I cannot do it justice here so suggest anyone who is interested to give it a read.

  • Comment number 74.

    'Spain were a 100m percent white football team that won the world cup, as were italy a 100 percent world cup football team that won in 2006.'

    Oh please. There is a genetic differance between people from southern europe and northern europe. To use the term 'white' to broadly cover the whole of the 'indigenous' races in Europe is ridiculous. Some people use the term Latino - to describe people of ethnic origin from southern europe, some people call people from Britain as being Celts and Anglo-Saxons.

    The fact you think this guy is even going to come close to challenging bolt is ridiculous.

  • Comment number 75.

    Those who are saying it isn't a talking point that a white man has, for the first time dipped under 10 seconds are defying the reality of the world. It is significant. It's significant that while (West African) Americans and (West African) Caribbeans have knocked 0.3 seconds off their best 100m time, white Europeans have knocked 0.02 seconds. Racism and the perception of racial difference and self limitation is a reality in this world however much people might deny it.

    Now you could argue that it is genetic or that white men had done all they could to increase their speed through training so further increase would be limited but I would argue the psychological barrier defeated them before they started. And for that to be true a perception of racial inferiority has to be in the psyche whether one would deny it or not. Otherwise when a black man had beaten the 10 second barrier white men would have been able to beat the psychological hurdle.

    Phsychology has a huge imapact on what athletes can and can't achieve - if you don't believe me, check how many sub 9.8 second times there were only two years ago. Now Gay, Bolt and Powell regularly beat the mark. When athletes prove it is possible, other athletes have the incentive to dig deeper through a competitive instinct.

    Now the psychological impact isn't just in the minds of the athletes themselves its also in the minds of the coaches who encourage and discourage athletes at an early age. This can defeat athletes before they even have the chance to test themselves. These are all important factors in what athletes can achieve.

    For me the genetic difference is way overstated, at least in its own right. But if there is one it may be argued that it is more than just between West African and the rest of the world. You could even argue that the very quickest were descendants of slaves who by the nature of their hardships had to be extremely strong just to survive let alone thrive. Add to this the opportunity only to breed (if you'll pardon the nature of the word) with other people of a similar background for over a century then you have the recipe for a "super race".

    By the way I saw other comments relating to long distance runners being far superior to European runners, again genetically. People might forget that Coe's 800m record took a hell of a long time befire it fell and he, Ovett and to an extent Cram set times that athletes are still struggling to beat now, at least in this country. Now I'm not saying that altitude training doesn't play a part in increasing the conditioning of athletes, I would say the larger part was played by top athletes training with and competing against each other day in day out as the Kenyans and Ethiopians do. That training alone WILL produce better athletes. Just as the competition between, Ovett, Cram and Coe produced better athletes (and Moorcroft).

  • Comment number 76.

    And by the way, concentrating on some genetic difference makes it all the easier to ignore the performances of those who apparently have that genetic advantage. Which is why the Sun could dismiss Christie's great achievements in the Olympics 100m with the lunchbox headline and not for his fantastic win.

    And I will believe we will have black world swimming champions in the next ten years. It just takes one individual to test the boundaries and to have the belief of the people around them.

  • Comment number 77.

    unounos - well-argued rebuttal.

    friedmanwouldcry - here's a link to a Mattew Syed piece on a related subject which is relevant to Leamaite - the influence of parents on champions: http://www.matthewsyed.co.uk/2010/03/to-learn-secret-of-success-meet-the-parents/

    No takers on who anyone fancies between Dwain and Lemaitre? The Frenchman was a touch faster as they both came through the 100m heats Tues eve, but only by 2/100s second - both looked pretty comfortable...

  • Comment number 78.

    Chambers' experience will take him through against Lemaitre imo. I think he is more relaxed than he has been for a while. Obukwelo is there as well but it will be Chambers for me.

  • Comment number 79.

    By the way Fedor, Eminem is not and never has been at any point in his career the best rapper lol!

  • Comment number 80.

    Let me rephrase my prior post which has been censored by the thought police at the Beeb ........Lemaitre ran even faster than his countrymen did from Dien Bien Phu...........Impressive!

  • Comment number 81.

    Ok,lets ignore the race card, and make the generalisation that all top sprinters must have a high (or extraordinarily high) percentage of fast twitch muscle fibres in order to be successful. While sprinters with afro-caribbean heritage may be more genetically predisposed to being potential world class sprinters, environment must be a crucial factor.

    Just because middle and long distance running is dominated by Kenyan and Ethiopian runners, doesn't mean that European runners can't run these distances fast. You only have to look at the times that Cram, Coe and Ovett used to run.

    So what has changed since then? For sport in general... In the UK, green areas (hmmm, those school playing fields) have been replaced by housing estates. The encroachment of TV, computer games, and the internet on Western lifestyles. Poor nutrition (cheap processed foods, junk food etc.) and the obesity epidemic. Schools sacrificing PE for more hours in the classroom to try and improve positions in league tables, despite the strong positive correlation between time dedicated to PE and academic achievement. Using a car, when you could walk, run or cycle. This list could go on.

    Use of sports facilities is often expensive, and not affordable for a lot of people. Quick 'case study' as an example: I am a former competitive swimmer, while my sister is swimming at a high junior level. There are the costs for training c. 15 hrs/week, kit, open meets, county, district and national level competitions (entry fees for each event, travel, hotel and meal costs). This is an expensive commitment for a middle/average income family. However, at least in my hometown, this has caused a shift in the background of athletes. When my mum was swimming, there were a lot of swimmers from poorer backgrounds, whereas there are no swimmers from these backgrounds at our club anymore. If this is similar across the country, it reduces the talent pool available considerably. No doubt there are several potential Michael Phelps, Usain Bolts, Lance Armstrongs, Jessica Ennis', etc. whose talent will never be discovered or nurtured.

    Now, lets hop over to Jamaica. Sprinting is a religion over there. You only have to look at the crowds for their school and youth games, let alone national championships, to understand why they are more successful. For athletes from poorer nations, often having experienced significant hardships growing up is a strong motivation for escaping war and poverty. Factor in that they will have lived more active lifestyles then a lot of lazy Westerners (was it Usain Bolt describing Simeon Williamson being lazy at training!), will have probably eaten healthily (fresh foods), may have lived in rural areas, and you should have a good base for strong athletes (as long as they get the opportunity). Of course geography does play a part as well - athletes that live at high altitude will be strong at endurance events (and throwing the genetic spanner back into the works, there is that valley in Kenya (?) that churns out distance runners like a production line - the right genes that have developed because of the environment in which their ancestors have lived...

    You have to bare in mind that we (the UK) are reasonably good at most sports. Okay, we could be better with the right investment at grass roots level, and we would like more World Champions in more sports, but at least we have facilities for swimmers, cyclists, sailors, racing drivers, etc. etc. Eric 'the Eel' Moussambani learnt to swim on his own in a swamp, rather than in a swimming pool with a coach to teach him the technical and strength/stamina aspects. So, you see a lot of the athletes from poorer countries excelling in events where natural talent and hard work are needed, rather than a lot of technical equipment/knowledge and access to facilities.

    A final thought: how many potential top class sportmen play football but never make it?!
    For American Football, don't a lot of College wide receivers/fullbacks who don't make the draft then go on to become sprinters?

    Hmmm, a few things open for discussion there!

  • Comment number 82.

    Tom, I fancy Chambers to win, Lemaitre went to pieces when racing Gay and Powell earlier this year, and I fancy that mental edge will take Chambers through. They both looked very good in the heats, Chambers to edge it in a not particularly fast final - no-one to go under 10 seconds.

  • Comment number 83.

    An interesting debate this. I think that the answer to the question is - Yes, to some people it matters, and no, to other people it doesn't. Some people don't even want to think about race ("who cares if they are white, pink or blue" etc) and so of course to them it doesn't matter.

    To others though it does matter, perhaps they are interested in racial differences and why one race seems to do well at one thing, whilst another excels at something else.

    For me it is particularly interesting because it has brought up a subject that is considered taboo, and that is that I am not convinced that all races get a fair deal in certain sports, and this includes (gasp!) whites and Asians. Asians in the NBA? Listen to the new NBA player Jeremy Lin's account of the prejudice he experienced as an Asian trying to get into basketball. The NFL recrutiment process has its moments too. As an example, the top performing college running back (white running backs practically don't exist in the NFL) Toby Gerhard wasn't picked for the first draft this year, and a scout said “He’ll be a great second-round pickup for somebody, but I guarantee you if he was the exact same guy – but he was black – he’d go in the first round for sure.”

    Here is question. Are blacks better at football? From my vast experience of playing football, I would say that blacks, Asians and whites are as good or as bad as each other... it completely depends on the individual. Then, why, is the current England under 19's team 75% black, when the black population in England is so small? Is it possible that whites and Asians are being overlooked? Please, before the cries of racism - turn this question upside down and then ask how racist it is.

    For sure many blacks are fantastic performers in the world's most popular sports. Let's hope that they will have more opportunity to get into sports such as golf, ice hockey etc. At the same time, lets hope that more whites and Asians are given every chance to get into sports such as track and field and basketball. There is no reason why all races can't excel at all sports.

    By the way, to the commentor who said that Spanish people are not white - that is like saying that Kenyans aren't black!

  • Comment number 84.

    Not a bad article. At 20, he could be looking at a very bright future if he applies himself and learns to become a technically good sprinter. This whole notion of black men being genetically superior to white men when it comes to speed is ridiculous. I'm black and I can tell you that throughout my days playing sports in tip top shape, whether it was athletics, rugby or football, plenty of white guys have run past me:-) I wish Lemaitre all the best, and if and when his 100m and 200m times get closer to world class sprinters, I'll support him simply as the underdog to the likes of Bolt, Gay, Powell, etc.

  • Comment number 85.

    Tiger Woods. Lewis Hamilton. Barrack Obama.

    The media made a huge deal out of these 3 people. Yet finally, at long last, a white man breaks that magical barrier, you have to play down it as insignificant. Why? Yet if you go to the swimming section on the BBC Sport, there's an article about the first ever black GB swimmer. Why are you making an issue of that if skin colour does not matter?

    It always seems that when we have the first black this or that, it is something to be celebrated, but when we have the first white something, the media have a different outlook. Double-standards couldn't be more obvious.

  • Comment number 86.

    Could somebody tell me when Namibia ceased to be on the West coast of Africa?

  • Comment number 87.

    "Lemaitre went to pieces when racing Gay and Powell earlier this year, and I fancy that mental edge will take Chambers through. They both looked very good in the heats, Chambers to edge it in a not particularly fast final - no-one to go under 10 seconds."

    No, he didn't actually!
    His drive phase leaving the blocks and 30-40m acceleration looked slow compared to the top two but that was expected. He hasn't their polish or power at this stage.
    In the end he was three metres down on Bolt... exactly what you would expect from previous 100s each had run. He actually pulled Powell in over a half metre compared to their only other race a month earlier.
    He was also predictably blown away early against (world champ over 60m) Chambers but fought back to pick up ground a few weeks before running his sub10.

  • Comment number 88.

    well, where to begin when lots of valid (and some uninformed) comments have been made.

    It's safe to say more people of west african sub-saharan descent have the physical TOOLS to run fast. But this doesn't exclude any one from any racial grouping being fast. Most Japanese runners have the handicap of short legs but they've had some very fast men, nearly sub 10, because they have so many other of the tools needed to run fast.
    Lemaitre has many of those tools too (as did Matt Shirvington).

    Is it significant a "white" running sub 10? Yes, because of the psychological effect that not only washes down to white peers but also to white kids who may otherwise shy away from doing the event and who now see someone who looks like them (as awful as this can sound) running fast and being competitive.

    It may or may not cause a strengthening of white athletic participation at top level in the sprints. Although Anthony Nesti winning an Olympic swimming gold in the 80s didn't seem to for black swimmers... certainly not a lasting one

  • Comment number 89.

    I didn't read much of the blog as I was shocked by the headline. Can I just say that if a white man was the first to run under 10 seconds years ago then a black man did it, would the headline read " do we really care that a black man ran under 10 seconds"? And if it did, how would that go down? I think this is a shocking statement and I wish to complain fully and an officail apology should be made on the front page of the sport website!

  • Comment number 90.

    @debaterr111

    Thats an incredibly stupid comment, and anyone who uses the argument of how the likes of Venus Williams Tiger Woods Lewis Hamilton are being heralded for being black athletes suceeding in white dominated sports is incredibly stupd to say the least.


    You make ask why i say this well, the athletes you just mentioned have been dominant in their sports for the last 1 years, Lemetaire has broken 10 seconds yet he hasn't done anything notweworthy, he has won any championships, olympics etc. Serena and Tiger Woods have consistently dominated their sports, and have done far more than just had 1 good performance, thats why they get all the media attention they do,

  • Comment number 91.

    @fedor

    Eminem is only the best rapper to dillusioned white kids


    'If i was black i wouldn't seel half'


    Eminem said that himself.


    Christophe hasn't even run 9.8 and your saying he is going to dominated the likes of Bola, laughable.

    The Kiltschko brothers are nothing compared to the likes of Ali, Joe Lewis etc try take off your white tinted glasses for a second.


    And finally the Spanish are a great team no doubt, but the Brazilians who were comprised of mostly black and mulatto players in the past, their best player ever and greatest of all time being (arguably) Pele are still the leaders in terms of world cups won.

  • Comment number 92.

    @ Heru
    "Lemetaire has broken 10 seconds yet he hasn't done anything notweworthy, he has won any championships, olympics"

    He hasn't had time to at senior level, has he?
    He started running in 2005, earned 4th in the world youth champs 100 and 5th in the 200 in 2007 at 17, only 2 years into his sport.
    He won the world junior 200 title at 18 in 2008, the Euro junior 100 title in 2009 aged 19 beating Duane Chambers continental record.
    At just 20 he's broken the French 100m record and equalled a strong 23 year old French 200m record.

    All that stuff is fairly noteworthy for those who have more than a passing and superficial interest in the sport, wouldn't you agree?

  • Comment number 93.

    I wonder if the dominance of athletes of NW African origin in power sports relates back to the slave trade.

    A long journey from Africa with high casualty rates, followed by an extremely arduous existence in the US/Caribbean mean that this segment of the population went through an extreme and accelerated "survival of the fittest" process. The survivors would generally have been the biggest and the strongest, and it seems likely that this genetic biases would have been passed down to subsequent generations.

    This might also go some way to explaining why atheletes of NW African origin have been so dominant whereas performance of atheletes from NW Africa itself have been much less remarkable.

  • Comment number 94.

    @ heru

    Whats the point of your comment? And where did Eminem get into the debate?!!!

    How could you possibly know how Klitscho would fair up against Joe Lewis etc? Amongst many boxing experts, its generally agreed the the Klitchkos are vastly underated. Vitali has never been knocked down and has the best record of any heavyweight boxer in history. Whilst that doesn't mean everything, it means a lot.

    Not sure about this survival of the fittest theory of slaves. A geneticist would find dozens of counter arguments.


  • Comment number 95.

    johnathan - so let's hear one of those counter arguments, then

  • Comment number 96.

    Your attempts to put Frankie Fredricks and Patrick Johnson as non blacks is laughable and all the other sub 10 seconds Euopeans were of African or Carribean descent. Francis Obikwelu wasn't even European until he changed his allegiance from Nigeria to Portugal.
    ........................................
    bit ignorant this ! Like many natives of Namibia fredricks will be of San descent. These people are genetically very distinct from west african negro people, and are infact a separate race.
    also Australian aborigines are genetically more distict from west africans, than west africans are from caucasians... Just because people have dark skin doesnt mean they're the same race or closely related

  • Comment number 97.

    @ Heru
    "Thats an incredibly stupid comment, and anyone who uses the argument of how the likes of Venus Williams Tiger Woods Lewis Hamilton are being heralded for being black athletes suceeding in white dominated sports is incredibly stupd to say the least."

    They made a big deal of Lewis Hamilton BEFORE he even got behind the wheel. Same with Tiger Woods, they made a big deal BEFORE he won a major title. Just clarifying my point.

  • Comment number 98.

    And the hype was justified as Tiger Woods went on to become the 2nd most successful golfer of all time, and Lewis Hamilton the best formula driver there is. They also made a big deal about Jensen Button, they also made a big deal about Sonny Pike, Joe Cole, and various white prodigies, before they had even done anything of significance.

    At the end of the day the big deal was about talent, but tabloids couldn't stop referring to their race. To be honest it could happen but i don't think anyone who follows athletics believes Christophe Lemataire will be able to usurp the likes of Tyson Gay, Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, i mean he doesn't even hold the European record, i don't think the hype is justified, but undoubtedly he is a big talent and i will be following his career closely.

  • Comment number 99.

    @pekster

    Lol you couldn't be more wrong about the san people and West Africans,san people a seperate race from the 'negro race' lol, i think your studies are still stuck in the 1800's. The same studies that said East Africans were 'caucasians' haha get up to date please for the sake of not looking stupid and misinformed.

  • Comment number 100.

    http://www.iaaf.org/athletes/biographies/country=JAM/athcode=184599/index.html - Usain Bolts progression statistics

    In 2007 when he was 21 Usain Bolt's fastest time was 10.03.
    At the age of 21 and a half in May 2008 he broke 10 seconds for the first time in 9.76 seconds with a huge tailwind.

    Yes he had been running very fast times in the 200 metres previous to this however his technique and experience in the 100 metres was such that he wasn't sub-10 second standard.

    Am i saying that Christopher Lemaitre will beat Bolt's record at the age of 24. No. But does he have the statistical potential.

    http://www.thesportreview.com/tsr/2010/07/christophe-lemaitre-first-white-man-under-ten-seconds/ - According to this news report he is the second youngest man to run at this time.

    'He is also the second youngest man ever to achieve the feat, younger than both Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay when they first went below ten seconds.'

    So for no other reason that it's a remarkable time for a 20 year old, congratulation Christophe Lemaitre and good luck with your career.

 

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