World sprinting has always had a place of honour on the Stade de France track. And so this will continue with the 2012 edition of the MEETING AREVA on Friday 6 July, even without Usain Bolt, retained in Kingston by the Jamaican selection trials for the Olympics. Indeed the organisers of the French stage of the Samsung Diamond League can officially announce today the presence of the two biggest names in American sprinting, Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin. Competing over 100m, they’ll be up against the two young French athletes, Christophe Lemaitre and Jimmy Vicaut, both world champion finalists in the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.
With such a line-up, the MEETING AREVA’s men’s 100m will provide spectators in the Stade de France with a unique billing in this Olympic season. Taking the start will be the world’s second best performer in history, Tyson Gay (9’’69 in 2009 in Shanghai), the 4thfastest 100m sprinter this season, Justin Gatlin (9’’87 on 11 May in Doha), the reigning European champion, Christophe Lemaitre (9’’92 last July in Albi) and finally the bronze medallist at the Junior World Championships in 2010, Jimmy Vicaut, 6th in last year’s World Championship final in Daegu. The resulting generation clash will certainly have an exotic perfume: a France/ United States face-off, the likes of which have never before been seen in a one-day competition.
Excluded from the 2011 Worlds due to an injury, Tyson Gay has been tackling the Olympic season with trepidation. He’s only run in competition mode once, in New York on Saturday 9 June, during the Samsung Diamond League Meeting on America’s East Coast. However, this performance alone proved that he was race-fit. The 2007 World Champion dominated his series in a time of 10’’00 flat despite a headwind of 1.5m/sec.Known for growing in strength in the build-up to the major meetings, he’s likely to arrive at the Stade de France full of motivation to rack up a stellar performance just three weeks prior to the start of the London Games.
Aged 30, Justin Gatlin has made a spectacular comeback this season at the pinnacle of world sprinting. World Indoor Champion last winter in Istanbul, he’s moved up into the upper echelons of Olympic outsiders after running a sub-10 second 100m on three separate occasions this season. Such a trilogy has only been equalled by the Jamaicans,Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell andYohan Blake.Winner in the Samsung Diamond League event in Doha (9’’87), then in Eugene (9’’97), the Orlando born American will be aiming for a hat-trick at the Stade de France.Christophe Lemaitre and Jimmy Vicaut, the two frenchies, haven’t yet run under 10 seconds in the 100m this season. However, neither of them has made any secret of their intention to achieve a personal best during the first few days of July. The athlete from France’s Savoy region is still at 10’’04, a time he ran in Rome at the end of May, in the wake of Usain Bolt andAsafa Powell. The Parisian won the race at the LNA Lille Métropole Meeting on Saturday 9 June at Villeneuve d’Ascq, in a time of 10’’15, the best time of his career over this period of year.
On hearing the names of his future rivals, Christophe Lemaitre declared himself to be highly enthusiastic at the idea of sharing the 100m start line with them. This will be a first for Tyson Gay since the two sprinters have never run against each other before. As for Justin Gatlin, they have competed together on two previous occasions and the Frenchman has the edge having beaten him both times: in Nice during the Décanation and in Daegu last August during the World Championships.
On the fringes of this four-way battle between France/United States, the public in the Stade de France will likely be keeping an eye on the lane taken up by Trinidadian athlete, KestonBledman. Coming to the foreground in June 2011, thanks to a performance of 9’’93 achieved during a North American meeting, the Olympic 4x100m silver medallist in Beijing has already broken the 10-second barrier twice this year: 9’’89 in May in Orlando, then 9’’93 on 9 June in New York.
In the absence of the Jamaicans, the MEETING AREVA 2012 will be presenting the big crowds in the Stade de France with the best of the current crop of talent in the men’s 100m.It will be a unique opportunity to see Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin, KestonBledman, Christophe Lemaitre and Jimmy Vicauton the same track prior to the London Games.