Racial stereotyping is dangerous and undesirable. The colour of a man's skin is irrelevant. Except, perhaps, in sprinting which for so long has been the near-exclusive preserve of Afro-Carribeans. A Caucasian threatening to challenge in an Olympic sprint final is worthy of comment.
Lemaitre, the first European champion at 100m, 200m and relay (in 2010) was third-fastest of the eight men who will line up tonight for the 200m final at 8.55pm. The rest are Afro-Carribbean, with one athlete from Ecuador.
One could have thrown a blanket over Yohan Blake, Wallace Spearmon and Lemaitre in heat one. Just two hundredths of a second separated them as the Jamaican 100m silver medallist Blake won in 20.01, with Spearmon on 20.02 and Lemaitre another hundredth behind. This meant the 22-year-old Frenchman qualified as one of two fastest losers.
Usain Bolt, the 100m champion, won his heat, already easing off nonchalantly 50 metres out. His time of 20.18 was fifth best, one hundredth ahead of the Dutch European champion, Churandy Martina, formerly of the Netherlands Antilles.
Lemaitre is only the fifth Caucasian to reach this final since 1984. The others are Kostadinos Kenteris, the Greek winner in 2000, who was subsequently banned for a doping offence; Patrick Stevens (Belgium, seventh in 1996); Raalf Luebka (Germany) and Pietro Mennea (Italy, fifth and seventh in 1984). Mennea had won in 1980, narrowly denying Allan Wells his second gold medal. Since the Scotsman won in the 100m in 1980, not one white athlete has featured in an Olympic 100m final.
Lemaitre, the first Caucasian to break 10 seconds (9.92) is, however, only 39th on the 100m all-time list. "I am happy in the end with what has happened," he said. "The curve was difficult. From lane five, something touched me [Brazilian Bruno de Barros]. If I had not had this complication, I would have placed second. I am not more tired than usual. I could not get the speed from the beginning.
"I was scared for one moment when I realised I was third, and I did not know the time of the others. I really wanted to be second, to be in lane three in the final. I will have to do it. In lane three, I can hold it well. In lane two, it is more difficult, but maybe I can do that as well."
Spearmon was third in Beijing, but was disqualified for leaving his lane, but says he won't make that mistake again. Bolt stated he had been conserving energy. "It's all about going through as easy as possible. I am ready, this is my favourite event," he said.
He believes his doubters should back down, and that he can repeat his treble gold of Beijing. "That's how people are. They are always doubting a champion. But that is why I am here, to cement my legendary status. I am focused and I am ready," he said. "Spearmon has been here before, so he knows what it takes. There's lots of people that could spoil the party."
Blake, who was also easing up at the line said: "The race was a walk in the park. I've been working hard. All I needed to do was kick well. There is always a good chance, but mistakes can happen."
This is only the second time the United States have had only one athlete in the men's 200m final since 1928 (apart from the Moscow boycott in 1980). But they were revived when Allyson Felix won the women's 200m in 21.88. She had won silver in the last two Games, and is the first US winner since Gwen Torrence in 1992. She denied Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce the first 100m and 200m women's double since Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988. Fraser-Pryce, was second in a lifetime best of 22.09, with another American, Carmelita Jetter third (22.14).
Steve Lewis reached the pole vault final with just one jump at 5.50m, and 10,000m champion Mo Farah safely negotiated a bruising 5000m heat. "I just kept tripping up. They kept catching me. The 10k took more out of me than I thought. I've got a couple of days to recover," he said.
"There was lots of pushing and shoving, but that's what happens in the heat. The final will settle down. I will respect everybody and forget what has happened. My body was a bit tired and I was not as fresh for the 5k as some of the other runners."
Sophie Hitchon danced her way into the hammer final with her fourth British record, adding 37cms to her lifetime best with 71.98 metres. World junior champion Hitchon, once a ballerina, finished 10th of the 12 qualifiers for tomorrow's final.
Britain has never won an Olympic hammer medal, and indeed no throws medal since Fatima Whitbread's javelin silver in 1988. European under-23 bronze medallist and world junior champion Hitchon says her ballet training and performing on stage helps her handle the crowds and pressure, as well as her footwork in the circle.
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