Merton teenager sprints into British record books after dazzling display in Finland

Merton could have a new superstar sprinter on its tracks after a 19-year-old became the fourth-fastest British teenager over 60 metres on Tuesday.

Theo Etienne, who runs at Hercules Wimbledon Athletics Club, crossed the finish line after just 6.60 seconds at an indoor meet in Jyvaskyla, Finland.

The teenager came second in the race to Bahamian Warren Fraser in a dead heat and admits comprehending his achievement took a while to come.

He said: “I didn’t even realise what time I had! I was looking around trying to see if I’d beaten Warren and nobody seemed to know what was happening.

“People were just shouting at us telling us the times, the crowd and officials, and I couldn’t really believe it until I called my coach.”

Theo’s personal best puts him fourth behind Olympic gold-medallist Mark Lewis-Francis, Harry Aikines-Aryeetey and Chijindu Ujah.

The 19-year-old, who also competes over 100 and 200 metres, revealed that the run which cut one tenth of a second off his previous best felt perfect.

“The first run like a very good training run, then the second one just got me that time. It just felt very natural” he said.

“I’d warmed up nicely, I had on the extra layers and it felt right.

“I came out of the blocks and didn’t feel stiff and I got into my position, and it all felt natural without having to exert all that energy, so I could just run with a lot more intensity.”

Theo spoke while on his way back to Lee Valley Athletics Centre for treatment and therapy, the same day as flying back from Helsinki from the meet.

While he now trains six days a week, the teenager has not been an athlete for long, only taking up running competitively a couple of years ago while in college.

He said: “I do three days in the gym and three on the track per week, but I’ve been doing it for so long and I’ve kind of got used to it now.

“You plan out your days and schedules, and I get Sundays off so it’s not too bad. It’s all about being consistent, and the more you do it the better at coping you become.

“Obviously you’re still tired, but it’s nowhere near as bad if you keep that schedule going.”

The sprinter is looking to take the rest of 2016 in his stride, but insists he’ll keep his feet firmly on the ground when considering the opportunities over the next 12 months.

The mantra of the Olympic legacy following London 2012 is often talked about far and wide, but Theo is a definite success of the competition being on these shores four years ago.

He said: “The Olympics was a big inspiration for me. At the time I wanted to do football and athletics, but I made that choice to do the latter for the enjoyment of it, and I took my own path by getting into running.

“It’s a bit early to look at the rest of the year. There’s a new dynamic to my games and competition now, but I’m going to go back and work with my coach to run consistently and try and get more personal bests.

“It makes me so happy, just for the training to have paid off, that it’s going somewhere and that all the work with my coach has worked.”

Image courtesy of Esa Jokinen, with thanks

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