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Tyson Gay and Christophe Lemaitre, the headliners for Friday’s 100m clash at the Meeting Areva, the seventh stop on the Samsung Diamond League circuit, met with the press in the French capital today.
The pair, respectively the US and French national record holders, discussed their recent performances disclosed their expectations for their Stade de France race this weekend, and their preparations for the Olympic Games next month.
Here is a partial transcript of what they had to say.
Tyson Gay, US national record holder and second fastest man of all-time at 9.68, 2007 World 100m and 200m champion) -
On how he’s feeling after returning from a hip injury and qualifying for the US Olympic team: I feel pretty good, considering I came back and made the team. I was under a lot of stress, mentally and physically, early in the season, but I feel a lot better now.
In March I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to go to the trials, I was in so much pain. But then after running a few races I was feeling a lot better.
We’re just focusing on the gold medal. First to make the team, then getting the medal. And just trying to stay positive about everything.
His expectations for Friday’s race: I really want to work on my start here. I’m a little bit tired now from practicing, and my legs are a little bit flat from the flight and travel. So tomorrow I hope we’ll have a good blocks session and then take it into the race and come out with something positive. It’s my first time here and I know the crowd is going to be crazy, I know the stadium is huge. I’m looking forward to getting back into that kind of environment.
How difficult was it returning from injury that sidelined him for most of 2011: It was more mental. Considering I started training in March, it was about trying to stay healthy. It was tough. So I took it slow. First I did a lot of running on the grass and then about six weeks ago, that’s when I pretty much started the speedwork. And a couple weeks later I started with the blocks. So I’ve only been sprinting for about eight weeks total.
On how he would summarise his US Trials races (10.00 heats, 10.04 semis, 9.86 finals, second place): I was hoping to get a win, but obviously I came up short.
I basically describe it as the biggest race of the year and getting the jitters out. My blocks were a little suspect. I do have to work on executing a better. But it was the best race I could put on for that night.
His thoughts on Lemaitre: I see that he’s a tough competitor. I saw what he did at the World Championships last year (bronze at 200m, fourth at 100m), my hat’s off to him. What he did was incredible because it was a great field. He beat some great competitors. He’s really technically sound. He’s really smooth and has a really good transition. And that’s what comes with a great sprinter.
Christophe Lemaitre, French record holder in the 100m (9.92) and 200m (19.80), who last week successfully defended his European 100m title -
On this weekend’s race just a week after the European Championships: It’s not easy coming back from such a competition. I went home and did a few training sessions and I feel good.
But it’s very special for me to run in front of a French crowd. We’re very lucky here in Paris to have this Diamond League meeting, and I’m really looking forward to it.
His response to Gay’s thoughts about him: Thanks for those words, it’s a great feeling to hear you say those things about me. For me, running against such a great sprinter as you is special because I have to run against. You have lots of experience, and to see what you did in your last two races was fantastic.
On the season looking forward: I’m looking forward to have the same kind of shape this year as I had at the same moments last year. I had some good sessions in training yesterday, really good ones, especially in the start. I think it’s going in the right direction. I feel that I have the right base.
I was happy to be in Helsinki. I like the atmosphere of major championships. This brings me something that I love. And I think I’m on the right way to this.
Both sprinters were asked their thoughts on Yohan Blake’s double victory at the Jamaican Trials last weekend, defeating Usain Bolt in both the 100 and 200m.
Gay: I don’t really think it changes the competition or anything like that. Usain Bolt has obviously proven to be a championship runner. So he’ll be ready and healthy at the Games. In my honest opinion it looked like he was somehow labouring in some kind of way. I don’t know why. He could have been a little banged up. I’m not trying to give him any excuses or take anything away from Yohan Blake, but to me, I paid a lot of attention to the way he was running and it looked a little different.
Lemaitre: It was 'half a surprise’ to me that Bolt got beaten in the 100 metres. In some races, he had problems at the start, in the first part of his race. Yohan Blake is the World champion so it wasn’t a very, very big surprise.
In the 200 it’s more of a surprise because this is the race Usain Bolt loves. But we’re one month away from the Olympic Games so we have to wait and see.
On the competition they expect to face at the Olympics: Gay: I still think it’s fair and square. I think everyone’s still even. Usain Bolt took his losses but he’s shown that he’s able to bounce back. I think it’s fair game. Yohan is in the best shape of his life. For him to beat Usain Bolt and other competitors in that race, he’s shown that he’s serious about this.
Lemaitre: This won’t change a lot for me. It won’t change my preparation, physically or mentally. My goal is still a medal at the Olympic Games. There will be seven opponents. I won’t change many things based on what I saw there.