Christophe Lemaitre NOT the First White Man to Break 10 Seconds

I am surprised of the hype surrounding France’s Christophe Lemaitre.  Yes, he did run 9.98 with a legal wind on Friday, and yes, he is white or Caucasian (or non-African decent if you want to get picky), but the real surprise is just turned 20 years old, and technically speaking his running form leaves a lot to be desired.  But when you run 9.98, maybe his running style is better?

Or, maybe he can run 9.80 with some adjustments?

First, I don’t care if a man or woman is white, black, yellow, red, green or orange.  It’s how fast he or she can cover from point A to point B, regardless of running style.  In this case, we’re talking about the 100 meters.  After all, we are trying to find out how fast someone can run.

If you really want to get picky, Marian Woronin of Poland’s personal best was 9.992.  When you round up to the nearest 1/100ths of a second, that becomes 10.00.  So while Christophe Lemaitre became the first white man to run under 10.00, Marian Woronin was the first white man to run under 10.000.

Christophe Lemaitre Running Form

I am more impressed by the fact this young chap is only 20 years old.  Then again, we remember all the hype of Usain Bolt as a 17 year old.  He got injured a lot, went away for 2 years, then BOOM.  I hope he has a good management team.

Physically, Lemaitre has very long legs with his shorts (or tights) coming up very high to his torso.

Christophe Lemaitre’s body type remind me a lot of Donovan Bailey, the 1996 Atlanta Olympic 100 meter Champion.  They both have long strides and appears to be sitting “low”.  Technically, that is not favourable as it drops your hips and you can’t get your high knee action.

With all the hype over reducing ground contact time, Bud Winter always advocated a long stride by means of a powerful push-off while staying low to the ground.  Read his book, this topic is covered in great detail.

Thanks to YouTube, we have his Heats (10.15) and Final (9.98) is super slow motion.  He also ran a 10.05 in the semi-finals.

Christophe Lemaitre Videos

The first thing to notice, you’ll see most athletes taking 7 strides to the 10 meter mark.  You can see it from the 4×100 passing zone hash marks at 90 meters.  You’ll also notice Lemaitre is nearly standing up at 10 meters, compared to the others who are “low” or still in the drive phase.

Another thing I noticed was his consistency, or lack thereof.  In the heats, he runs 10.15 with 41 steps while easing up the last 10 meters, and chopping his last stride.  But in the Finals, he runs a legal 9.98 while taking 43 steps!

Just a reminder, Usain Bolt takes 41 steps for the 100 meters.

To my eye (and not using any Dartfish software) his knees are higher in the last 50 meters of the heats compared to the Finals.

At the end of the day, the stopwatch is all that matters (especially Track Fans in the stadium).  But it may be time to throw out the conventional style of training and start thinking outside the box.  You have to adjust your technique to different body structures and their strengths (and weakness!)

Here is the video from Youtube (10.15 Heats)

Here is the video from Youtube (9.98 Finals Slo-Mo)

Here is the video from Youtube (9.98 Finals, normal speed)

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Actually, the “world record” fastest time for the men’s 100 meter dash (by a Caucasian or non-African runner) is 9.93 seconds by an Australian sprinter. His name escapes me, but the video can be found on YouTube and I believe the year was 1993.

  • the Australian was Patrick Johnson who actually looks “black” but is half white Irishman and half indigenous Australian. The year was 2003 and it was in Japan. His three best times were in japan that same month and were measurably the peak of his career.
    Matt Shirvington was psyched out by the offers of Aus $1Millon to become the first white to do it after his 10.03 (-0.2) at 19 years of age.
    I’m glad that didn’t happen to Christophe.

    I give Woronin no cred whatsoever, what with a 2.0mps max allowable tailwind in his home town. He never got within a tenth of it anywhere else

  • The first thing to notice, you’ll see most athletes taking 7 strides to the 10 meter mark. You can see it from the 4×100 passing zone hash marks at 90 meters. You’ll also notice Lemaitre is nearly standing up at 10 meters, compared to the others who are “low” or still in the drive phase.

    You talked about this before, 7 strides for 10m and
    I have been screaming to stand up soon and start running versus driving or delaying your accel time.

  • “But it may be time to throw out the conventional style of training and start thinking outside the box. You have to adjust your technique to different body structures and their strengths (and weakness!)”

    Jimson, how many times have I posted this on
    We have had many discussion on thinking outside the box. Now that you are putting it in print maybe more people will start to listen.

    • @adarian – I can’t wait to get healthy and get to the track and try some of your/our theories, especially the Cheetah start.

  • Lemaitre is an incredible runner, with a slim body and very young yet get impressive marks.
    In my opinion he has get more muscle, more potence mainly for the first 30-40m where he is not very fast. By example in the race with Asafa the adventage that get Asafa is mostly taken in the first 40 metres, after the french man is really fast.

    If Lemaitre continue his progression, of course his target should be 9,8x

  • Watching the race of heat of Lemaitre, perhaps his steps are a few longer that ideal for him, in the final 43 are much better.
    Bolt by example in Berlin has 41 steps, but like the jamaican is 2 inches taller than the french every step is standard for him in the races.

    I think that Lemaitre can improve so much yet.
    If he get final in Daegu 2011 or London 2012 in 100m would be great for him, and depending of the rivals, a medal is not impossible(dix bronze 9.91 beijing,asafa 9.84 bronze berlin)

  • If he just alters his arm action he would drop to 9.8 or better on 41 steps right now. He would also cover the first ten meters faster and easier.

  • LeMaitre has similar times to Jamaica’s Yohan Blake. Both are currently 20 years old and I believe Yohan has also run sub 10 second 100m several times already.

  • The (under 25 years old) runners who would be chasing Bolt for the next 10 years are:

    Daniel Bailey
    Christophe Lemaitre
    Yohan Blake

  • Mike, really Blake has similar times and age that Lemaitre(5.5 months younger the french), but technically Blake is better and he gets more potence with a body more worked,in adittion he trains with Mills together to Bolt.

    The potential of Lemaitre is incredible, he dont have so muscle,something that probably he will get in these years.

    By now Blake 3 sub10: 9.93 and 2 9.96 Lemaitre: 9.98

    If the french train well in these years, i think that he can surprise to the most people.
    Lemaitre is “very green” yet.

    I hope that he has very good race on friday in Paris and another sub10.

  • @ Frank – It is not so much muscle that lemaitre needs to gain. Moreso mass specific force, id also like to see him withstand forces at ground contact better as he collapses (knee flexion) upon landing, then re-pushes off again. Perhaps single leg quarter squats would be a way foward, but i dont know exactly what he’s already been doing in the weight room!

    stats you might be interested in – 20-80m average stride length = 2.75m
    – 0-100m average stride rate = 4.1 per second

    Putting on more muscle bulk by loads of hypertrophy training is not something i’d encourage.

    Paul Graham

  • Paul of course Lemaitre does not need so much muscle, he never will be MAURICE GREENE by example hehe. But sure some muscle i think that he can need, his body looks “amateur” yet. Perhaps with only 5-8kg muscle in 2-3 years would be good(his heigh is about 6.3 190cms, and about only 74kg).

    He has that improve his tecnique,his start and his first 30m perhaps.
    If the get it, 9.8x is very possible.
    And with that time a medal in a great event is very possible.

    • we’ve all seen the physical transformation (metamorphosis?) of Usain Bolt as a Junior, then bursting onto the 100m scene in 2008.

  • Good race for Lemaitre in Paris.
    Very bad start and a little nervous at beginning too, but 10.09 with -0.3 wind is very good.
    With the wind that he had in his 9.98(+1,3) those 10.09 would be about 10.01 perhaps, so very near of his best mark.

    Really this guy has a lot of talent and so much for improve.

  • note jamaicans like blake not a good comparison , with several of his compatriot he has already served a ban for stimulant abuse[doping] 3months during the winter. bolt diappeared for almost two years before bursting onto the scene again. hhmmm. definitely food for thought. i think gay and powell are just more believable.including walter dix and wallace spearman . and the fact remains doping controls in the carribean are almost non existant .

  • Hugh your statement is rubbish and you don’t know what you are talking about.

    In the history of athletics no other nationality has been tested for drug use (over the last four years) as frequently as the Jamaicans. Some commentators joked wondering how they do so well considering they have to give up so much blood.

    This is the same kind of nonsense that appeared when that Greek guy won the 200m in Athens. Suddenly all top black sprinters were on drugs and the white guy was clean.
    We all know how that turned out.

    Lemaitre is good for the sport but I can’t help but think that this is going to turn out to be white vs black rather than nation vz nation as it should be.

  • Very good race for Lemaitre and he gets the title of european champion in 100m.
    Good time 10.11 with -1.0 m/s. With a normal wind this mark is about 9.9x-10.0
    This guy has a big talent and he is getting the experience that he needs for compete with the best runners in the world.

    I think that the next year in Daegu,World Championship, he will get arrive until the final and in the olympic games in london 2012, and with better tecnique and a body more worked he could perhaps try a possible bronze.
    In normal conditions Bolt and Gay should be 1st and 2nd but in the third place i see people like Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell(if he has good level yet) and Lemaitre.

  • Kim Collins won the World Championship in 10″10 in Paris 2003 if I remember correctly. Of course, nobody wants a slower race but as someone else said, nowadays it is hard to know who is using drugs and who is not. I do not even know why we still refer to Carl Lewis as a legend, in 1985 Ben Johnson made a public scandal in Seoul for drug use but it was not before 2003 that the US authorities found out that Carl Lewis was also involved in a cover-up of drug use. For some reasons, this went unnoticed for almost two decades. Think Marion Jones or Linford Christie, it took years before they also get caught. It seems to me that the standards of drug testing vary a lot from country to country. No appointment should ever be made when it comes to drug testing, drug testing should always be an impromptu visit (hence the reason why they caught so many drug cheats in the Tour de France and so little in other sports). For that matter I am even surprised Dwayne Chambers was allowed to return. So considering all that, Lemaitre seems like a breath of fresh air for sport in general. I am not a specialist just a spectator, but this young Frenchman tells me that maybe sprinters do not have to look suspiciously like bodybuilders to run fast.

  • Very interesting that you clarified the discussion if Lemaitre was the first or second white to beat the 10 seconds mark.

    Now if there are 1 or 2 whites in the top 72 sprinters, among 70 blacks, that still is a staggering racial difference. That still makes one wonder if policital correctness is out of line with reality. Maybe races are different, maybe research really shows that blacks have a different physiology with higher testosterone levels and more fast twitch muscles. If dogma is out of line with reality, maybe the dogma should be revisited.

  • dear jon , maybe you need to look at the information your using or where your getting it from but its fact wada have continous problems enforcing doping policicies in the carribbean. and strangely many jamaican sprinters go missing for winter periods. you tell me how nesta carter has improved to 9.78 . sprinting is rife with performance enhancers. interesting how bolt and powell both have injury problems , are not partaking in delhi and will proceed to go missing til spring next year. and the fact for many years usatf covered up numerous doping violations by “elite sprinters” . the level of testing in europe is of the highest quality , but that of course has to do with professionalism and a desire to clean things up also one of the reasons kenteris and thanou went down while jones kept doping her eyeballs out. and i bet jeter will go down sooner or later .double standards of acceptance from one side of the atlantic , just look at baseball at the moment , what a sham.

  • anybody can find out how to mask , steroids just google it . its pathetic to think people put a blindfold over there eyes with regard to doping. what kind of message does it send to respective communities of budding young athletes, where a blind eye is thrown. this may also be part cultural aspect something intrinsicly linked to track and field. and for many years the eastern bloc was much maligned , even though every body else was exactly at the same thing. imean where does one start. dont even get me started with usatf. ah well jon do some research before u say somthing is rubbish, or maybe your jamaican then again maybe i am and just fed up with the examples being shown to young jamaicans , where many go by the wayside with no education , and little chance of employment , so why not use performance enhancers, others do?

  • interestng discussion.
    I am professional athlete for already 12 years. i guess all talks about who uses PEDs are no correct until someone is caught. but i wouldn’t be clarify any ote, and would never accuse. If it would be possible to put top athletes to one training camp for 3 months like in jail, then we would see who is really the fastest human using training methods.
    The french guy is already a man to atch , because of his stability in results. 9.98, 9.97. he easely runs 10.20s, not like other white sprinters.
    I can tell that 99% of white sprinters, especially from eastern europe, are over-muscled in “width” , look like bodybuilders, they develope “wrong” muscles. i have seen number of potentially fast athletes. but the training methods are different from US sprinters.
    So i guess Lemaitres coach has correct point of view.

  • Yeah, well, if you are talking about actually running a complete 100m split in under 10 seconds, Pietro Mennea had broken 10.00 long before Marian Woronin, and that was in the 2nd half of the 200m!! Pietro Mennea was in VERY good shape. But yet, Marian woronin was the first to break 10 seconds in a 100m event, it’s sad how he never gets any credit for doing it though, because of f*cking wikipedia.. >.<

    • Brett, my advice is to banish Woronin form your thoughts. He never did anything to stand out, even against white sprinters. There were many whites better than he in that era. A few Germans – Haas, and Emmelman , Alan Wells, Pietro Mennea, Attila Kovacs of Hungary all regularly beat him.
      That “lucky 10” was in his homeland, with home judges and he was given (exactly) 2 mps tailwind. He never ran within a tenth before or after and never ran fast in competition outside his home country. He was a 10.20 man when fit

  • yeah guys .. what about morne nagel was an enigma during career.. so talented yet so lean , a .6.48 60meter and 20flat sprinter with an indifferent 100 ???????

  • nagel is south african.. and never tested postive… anyway enough about doping…. enjoy the olympics….::::))))))

  • can I just point out that 9.992 rounded to the nearest 100th of a second would actually be 9.99 not 10.00 because the 2 is less than 5…