Saturday, May 30, 2009

Low-key return for Lewis-Francis

British sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis is set to make his first competitive track outing for 18 months at the Bedford International Games on Sunday.

The 2004 Olympic 4x100m relay gold medallist missed the entire summer season last year as he recovered from a long-term Achilles tendon injury.

The 26-year-old will now look to win a place on the Great Britain team for the World Championships in August.

Heptathlete Jessica Ennis will also be in action in Bedford.

The 23-year-old, who missed last year's Olympic Games with a serious foot injury, posted her highest-ever heptathlon score in her comeback last month at the IAAF World Combined Events Challenge in Lake Garda.

Lewis-Francis has six weeks to prepare for the World trials in Birmingham on 10-12 July where he should battle it out with Dwain Chambers, Craig Pickering, Simeon Williamson and Tyrone Edgar to be Britain's top 100m star.

Williamson showed his form recording a time of 10.10 seconds to win the 100m at the Artur Takac Memorial meeting in Belgrade on Friday.


American Rae Edwards finished second while Pickering was third in his season's debut, recording a time of 10.16.

"I will open my season in June with a few small meets to try to get back into racing mode. I hope to be able to race internationally by July," said Lewis-Francis.

"The trials is an important meet for me this year. It will be in my home city on the Alexander Stadium track where I trained most of my life.

"There is great depth in British sprinting these days so making the team will be the goal for us all."

Competing in Birmingham would also be "extra special" for Lewis-Francis, being his first run there since the death of former coach and mentor Steve Platt who guided him to Olympic and world junior gold medals.

With injuries appearing to be fully behind him, Lewis-Francis said: "At the last World Championships in Osaka I was ninth, just missing the final by one place.

"It would be great to get in the final this year in Berlin."

Mark Lewis-Francis
MLF was crowned the world's number one junior nearly nine years ago

Lewis-Francis, who last competed at the Zurich Golden League meeting in September 2007, said he will come back inspired after the exploits of Jamaican Usain Bolt at the 2008 Olympic games.

"This is a big year for me, it was very hard to sit at home and watch the Olympic Games on TV and see Usain Bolt dominate the sprinting events and smash the world records," he said.

Last season, Bolt won Olympic gold in the 100m and 200m in record times of 9.69 and 19.30 and was a member of Jamaica's record-breaking 4x100m team.

But Lewis-Francis believes his own future is bright having linked up with 1992 Olympic champion Linford Christie at the end of last year.

"I have spent the winter rehabbing and training hard under my new coach Linford," the Walsall-born athlete said.

"We are just back from warm weather training in California. Things are getting better day by day and I am enjoying my athletics."

Lewis-Francis achieved his career's best result at the 2004 Olympics when he anchored the 4x100m GB relay team to gold, but has struggled for any kind of consistency since winning the world junior title as a teenager in Chile in 2000.

He tested positive for cannabis in 2005 and was stripped of his silver medal won at the European Indoor Championships in Madrid in the same year.

The Birchfield Harrier also revealed at the end of 2007 that he was just one missed drugs test away from serving a one-year suspension after missing tests in 2005 and 2006.

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