Australian sprinting hit its darkest days in 2008. At the Beijing Games there wasn’t a single Australian man or woman in the 100, 200 or sprint relays.

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Images: Duane Hart Sporting Images

Qualifying times had been clocked, but Athletics Australia had effectively hoisted the white flag. After all, why waste precious coin shipping sprinters over to China just to watch them tumble in the heats? Back home, the national sprinting program was in tatters. The head coach, Paul Hallam, found himself out of a job; there wasn’t a single sprinter on scholarship at the AIS. The discipline was fading into the blackness.And yet, amidst the gloom, a new generation has emerged. And it’s being led by 22-year-old Melbournian Aaron Rouge-Serret. His time of 10.17secs at the WA Championships in March remains the fastest 100m on Australian soil for the past three years. That run carved .16secs from his PB and guaranteed his passage to Delhi next month. It’s also a run that would’ve earned him a bronze medal at the ’06 Comm Games. Our sprinting redemption may be at hand

Born or made?

“My coach and I both believe that genetics plays a massive part in sprinting. On the other hand, it’s also very easy to teach someone to run quicker ... But to sprint at an international level, genetics plays a huge role.“One of the main things coaches look for in sprinters is tendon length. Basically, they’re looking for a long Achilles tendon and a small calf. Look at guys like Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell – they’ve got small, high calves. Beyond that, you’re looking for massive gluts and hamstrings; the ability to put on muscle bulk. “Fast-twitch fibres are the main type of muscle fibre you need to sprint. You can train people to use more of their fast-twitch fibres but, again, that can only take you to a certain level. Genetically, you need to be born with a huge amount of fast-twitch fibres to be a world-class sprinter.”

White men can’t sprint

“In the past, it has played on my mind – that black men just run faster. But recently a young Frenchman, Christophe Lemaitre, became the first white man to break ten seconds. He ran 9.98 in the south of France. You know, people have always said that there’s been an uncertainty within white sprinters; that self-questioning - is breaking ten seconds actually possible? But I reckon Lemaitre has really re-lit the spark for white sprinters. And that’s from an international level right down to local athletics. He’s given them the fuel they may need to get to that level, to break ten seconds. Who knows, one day white sprinters may be mixing it with the top guys?”