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Lewis-Francis chases indoor medal

11 December 2006

By Simon Austin

British sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis says he has trained harder than ever this winter and is targeting a medal at the European indoors in March.

"The training is really hard at the moment, but it's something I really need," Lewis-Francis told BBC Sport.

"I'm in a great group, I've got a top coach (Tony Lester) and it's about going out and putting the work in.

"I think I can achieve a medal in the European indoors. But nothing's easy in life, you don't get anything for free."

The 24-year-old said he was unhappy that his commitment had been called into question in the past.

"People are not around me 24/7 to know exactly what I do," he said. "I think I train hard and work hard.

"I've been training more than anything else, getting ready for the big indoor season and staying focussed.

"But to tell you the truth, I don't care what other people think. The only person I've got to prove to is myself and that's it."

Lewis-Francis split from Steve Platt, his coach of 10 years, in August 2005 and moved from Birmingham to London to work with Lester.

He said the switch had not been easy - mainly because most of his family and friends are in Birmingham - but admitted it had been of benefit.

"I moved from Birmingham to London and there was a whole lot of sacrifice there," he said.

"I'm not going to lie, it's not easy, but what is in life? Moving down south has opened up a whole new routine of training."

He had an erratic year in 2006, winning gold in the 100m relay and finishing fifth in the individual event at the European Championships, but failing to reach a final at the Commonwealth Games.

Even that relay win in Gothenburg is likely to be remembered for the sullen faces of the quartet (Lewis-Francis, Darren Campbell, Dwain Chambers and Devonish) when they received their medals.

Campbell had earlier refused to do a lap of honour with his team-mates because he said it would be "hypocritical" to celebrate with Dwain Chambers, who had previously been banned for two years for a positive drugs test.

But Lewis-Francis said the fall-out had not tarnished the victory.

"Not at all, because everyone's entitled to their opinion," he said. "Darren had his opinions and issues he wanted to voice.

"At the same time, it was about us going out there and doing what we could do for the team, which was win a gold medal.

"And I think Dwain's cool - I've got no arguments with him and strongly believe everyone's entitled to a second chance.

"I heard he's not coming back to the sport, or something like that. If his heart's not in it, then follow your heart.

"If his goals and dreams are somewhere else, all I can do is just wish him the greatest of luck.

"For me, Dwain was a great competitor and rival. I enjoyed competing against him."

And the former world junior champion defended the health of British athletics.

"I don't think British athletics is in such a bad state and I wouldn't write us off," he said.

"We're just going through the natural stages of peaking and plateauing.

"And last year was a great year for British sprinting, what with the relay at the European championships."

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