I can beat Usain Bolt, claims Mark Lewis-Francis
by Matt Majendie
London Evening Standard
14 Jun 2011
Mark Lewis-Francis believes that Usain Bolt is beatable and that his own injury nightmare will help him in his quest to catch the fastest man on the planet.
The 28-year-old Briton's career has been plagued by injuries and he has only recently returned from his latest setback, a grade-three tear in his groin.
Lewis-Francis had been told to forget about jogging for at least 12 weeks but was back to full training after just eight weeks and, now back in competitive action, is raring to make up for lost time and catch the world's elite.
The Berkshire-based sprinter spent time with Bolt at a competition in Ostrava, in the Czech Republic, two weeks ago but, while the 100m record holder was winning the elite 100m, Lewis-Francis was competing in the 'B' final, which he won in a time of 10.2 seconds.
Despite that, he is confident he has the ability to take on the world's best this season and in the Olympic year in 2012.
He said: "Usain Bolt is an unbelievable talent and is beatable. I'm looking to catch him and, anyway, everyone has to have a bad day at some point. But from my point of view, if I can come back from the injuries I've had then racing another human being shouldn't be that hard."
Lewis-Francis' groin tear pales into insignificance compared to the Achilles injury nightmares that blighted his career since the highlight of anchoring Team GB to gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2004 Olympics.
A trip to the world renowned sports doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller Wohlfahrt, who has worked on the likes of Bolt, Paula Radcliffe, Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen, has helped rectify his latest complaint but the injury forced him to miss out on a shot at gold at the European Indoors in Paris in March.
He looked to have carried over his form from 2010 when he won silver at the European Championships and Commonwealth Games, and was brimming with confidence ahead of an all-British head-to-head against Dwain Chambers.
"I promised myself after the Achilles injury I'd never miss another major championship again but there I was once more sitting at home, which wasn't the best thing," he said. "Missing that is what made me work hard to come back particularly as I felt I could have given Dwain a real battle for the gold."
The two Britons remain some way off the times of Bolt, his fellow Jamaicans and American Tyson Gay but that has not deterred Lewis-Francis from thinking big.
"The World Championships is the major thing on this season's agenda after the success of last year," he said. "It's like a stepping stone to see where I'm going to be in 2012. I want to be there at the Worlds in the final and in the Olympic Games final."
The Olympics are a big goal for Lewis-Francis, who is coached by former Olympic champion Linford Christie, having been forced to miss out last time around because of his Achilles complaint.
The pain - mentally in particular - was so strong that he could not even watch on television. "Watching it was just too much for me - man, it was really, really tough," he added.
Now fully fit, he watches whatever athletics he can and admits to being driven on rather than daunted by the likes of Bolt running well inside Lewis-Francis' personal best despite clearly being some way off his peak.
"It's not at all hard to watch him," he said. "Actually, it's the total opposite. It's unbelievably motivating."
The more realistic Olympic medal target for Lewis-Francis ought to come in the 4x100m relay. Jamaica's star-studded line-up are expected to run away with the event.
But as Lewis-Francis pointed out, "So were the Americans in Athens and we beat them. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Most definitely the gold is achievable if we put the Jamaicans and the Americans under pressure."