French championships, Day two

Albi, France - Martial Mbandjock won his first 100m national title in 10.06 (wind +1.7) during a hot (30°) second day of the French Championships in Albi on Friday (25).

Winner of his heat on Thursday in 10.33 (w-0.9) and of his semi in 10.39 (w-2.1) on Friday, Mbandjock didn’t seem in his greatest shape. A 10.17 performer this year, the 22-year-old explained that he came to Albi with under par from his recent training. Additionally, he faced opposition from the new World junior champion at 200m, Christophe Lemaître, 18, who broke his personal best in the first semi final in 10.30 (w+1.1) in spite of a lacklustre start.

One hour and fifteen minutes later, the two sprinters took the lead in the race, after a good reaction time (0.151 for Mbandjock, 0.149 for Lemaître), but the powerful Mbandjock stormed away at 20m. Lemaître, in spite of a fast finish, couldn’t close the gap and secured second place in 10.26, becoming the season’s third fastest junior behind Americans Jeffery Demps (10.01) and Terrell Wilks (10.19).

The winner, ecstatic, said after his victory lap that his performance signaled the end of many frustrations.

“I could have done this performance a long time ago, but I was unlucky with weather conditions so far,” Mbandjock said. “When the board gave 10.06, I let my joy explode but even before reading it, I knew I ran fast.”

With 10.06, Mbandjock became the third fastest Frenchman ever, behind Ronald Pognon (9.99 in 2005) and Daniel Sangouma (10.02), and reached the French qualification standard of 10.13 for Olympic Games.

“I was in doubt after the heats and semis,” he continued. “That’s beautiful to do it in final, I’m very proud of it. I only focused on my technique in the final. I’ve said before that I would set the standard, so I really had to prove it.”

Revived men’s relay hopes for Beijing

The race was delayed by a recalled start and a false start. The new national champion said this was not the ideal conditions for him. “Neither were the hot weather and the funny track, but I like those kinds of races when you can win or lose everything. Now, no matter what will happen, it will be a great season for me,” said Mbandjock, a World indoor semi-finalist at 60m last winter.

Mbandjock became the second French to achieve individual qualification for Beijing, after Ronald Pognon (10.13 in Rethymno on 14 July), who chose to focus on the 200m in Albi. “Ronald is coming back,” he said. More significantly, the French 4x100m Relay, which took the 2005 world title, has never had such solid individuals since 1990 when Sangouma, Morinière, Trouabal and Marie-Rose broke the then-World record running 37.79 in Split, Croatia. “This gives hope for Beijing, results in relay come above all with fast individuals. I hope Christophe will make the team as well.”

Lemaître, a newcomer, has not been part to the season’s relay camps nor the 100m relay selection meeting. However, his 10.26 makes him the 3rd fastest French in 2008. “I don’t know what will be the selector’s decision,” said the tall (1.89 and 80kg), blond junior. “A selection would have been nice, but Olympics are not a dream for me at this point, and I think I’m still too young, thus there will be no regrets.”

Later in the evening, the start lists provided curious 200m heat compositions. The fourth heat had Mbandjock - whose potential at 200m remains unknown since his 21.06 personal best dates back to 2004 - and Pognon, who both easily qualified for Saturday’s semis in 20.92 and 21.04, respectively.

As for the women’s competition, the second heat opposed favourites Muriel Hurtis-Houairi, the former 200m World indoor Champion and Christine Arron, the European 100m record holder. Hurtis-Houairi, in lane three, quickly caught Arron, who was in lane four, winning in 22.80. Arron, who scratched the 100m semis in order to focus on the longer sprint, could only run 23.44.

“This time is not good enough to run tomorrow (in final),” she simply said. This ends her hopes to double in the 100m and 200m in Bejing. Her next race will be over 100m in Monaco’s Herculis 2008 meeting on Tuesday (28).

Djhone content with third consecutive 400m title

Leslie Djhone won his third 400m in a row, with a satisfying 45.13 time. “Even though I was pre-selected, I wanted to set the French standard (45.22), in order to prove that I deserved to be in Beijing. The fifth quarter-miler at the World Championships last year had only ran 45.35 in 2008. “These nationals were constructive, as it validated my training progress and I worked on my tactics. My coach François Pépin told me to catch my opponents in the first part of the race. There were swirling winds, blowing hard against in the last bend, but the final time is ok.”

Djhone’s last race before Olympics will also be Monaco. “Then, I will fly on 3 August to Wakayama, Japan, for training camp and arrive in Beijing as late as possible, on the 14th.”

World silver medallist in the 50km Race Walk, Yohann Diniz, won the 20km Walk in 1:22:31, an impressive time taking into account the warm conditions. “I’m grateful for the public support in the stadium. For me it was like a training workout, however it was normal for me to attend to the national champs, and it was included in the logic of my preparation for Beijing.”

Surprise Buisson Beijing-bound in Pole Vault

The major surprise of the day occurred in the women’s Pole Vault, as Marion Buisson, 20, achieved the French standard with a first attempt 4.50m clearance, defeating favourite Vanessa Boslak, who cleared the same height. “I wasn’t expecting this,” said the former gymnast, who took up the event only three and a half years ago. “Today, I told myself, ‘Do what you are used to do, keep confident.’ I’m really happy to jump the Olympic standard during my last competition.”

P-J Vazel for the IAAF