Lewis-Francis Offers Advice To Young Gun

Tue 12 Dec, 3:09 PM

Mark Lewis-Francis has warned Harry Aikines-Aryeetey “don’t believe the hype” after the teenager became world 100metres junior champion.

Aikines-Aryeetey claimed the junior title in Beijing in August a year after becoming the first athlete to secure the 100m and 200m sprint double at the world youth championships.

Lewis-Francis seemingly had the world at his feet after taking the junior title in 2000 but his success has not translated onto the senior stage in the individual events, although he was part of Great Britain’s victorious Olympic and European sprint relay team.

Speaking ahead of his return to his hometown of Birmingham for the Norwich Union Grand Prix on February 17, the 24-year-old said: "My advice really is enjoy your sport, never make it a job. Don’t believe the hype, just get on with it and do what you’ve got to do. And that’s it.

"I think he’s got it anyway because I think he is in a better situation than I was because he has got good people around him.

"If you look at the kid he doesn’t look 18. He trains with us on a Sunday and he’s a strong kid. I think he has got it in him. I think he’s got it already. I think he knows what he wants to do. His aim is for the 2012 Olympics.

"He’s going to have a lot of pressure. I think the pressure is already on his shoulders and I think people should leave him alone and let him enjoy it.

"Just look at me. People said 2004 would be my year but far from it.

“2008 hopefully something can come out of it and then obviously 2012.”

Since claiming the junior crown, Lewis-Francis has struggled despite showing great potential at the 2001 World Championships and the following year’s Commonwealth Games.

Following a dismal world championships in Helsinki last year Tony Lester took over his coaching and although Lewis-Francis admits there have been some difficult periods, he believes his fifth place in the European Championships is proof of his progress.

“Little things come out of the season that make me think its still there,” he revealed. "Last year I came out and ran 10.13seconds at Manchester and it made me sit there and think ‘it’s windy but I still ran it, there is still hope there, still a lot of hope.’

"There were nightmares. I remember when I first moved down south I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking ‘I’ve lost my talent, what’s going on?’

"If you look at Helsinki I was overweight, I was unfit, I wasn’t focused, I wasn’t an athlete.

“If you look at the Europeans I was fit, I wasn’t an ideal weight but I was in some kind of shape and I was running decent times.”

The Birchfield Harrier admits he has a long way to go if he is to challenge the likes of world record holder Asafa Powell.

He said: "I’m going to keep it so realistic it is unreal. There is a lot of work to be put in for me to be running with Powell at the moment. He has run the world record so many times it’s unreal. He makes Carl Lewis and Linford Christie look like nothing which is crazy.

"For me to compete with Asafa is another totally different level. To compete with the rest of the world? I’m not far off. I am trying not to think about Powell - I am trying to think about performance but nothing is impossible.

"It was not that long ago that I was standing on the line and I wasn’t scared of anybody, I could have raced anyone.

“I lost my fitness, I have had to go back to square one, get fit again and regroup. I’m still young, I’m only 24. Linford came out at 25 and won all his medals after that.”

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