During World War I Joseph Guillemot’s lungs were severely damaged by the effects of mustard gas. Despite this, and having a heart on the right-side of his chest (situs inversus), Guillemot, who was also quite small (160 cm, 54 kg), won his regiment’s cross-country championships in 1918. In 1919 Guillemot won the French Military Championship, followed by his first national championship title over 5,000 m in 1920, which qualified him for the Antwerpen Olympics, where the clear favorite in the distance races was Paavo Nurmi.
In the 5,000 m final, Nurmi attempted to exhaust his main rivals, Swedes Eric Backman and Rudolf Falk, over the early part of the race. After three laps Nurmi took the lead and built more speed, with only Guillemot able to follow him. Guillemot refused to yield and, on the final curve, Guillemot passed Nurmi on the outside and, unaccustomed to sprinting, Nurmi only jogged home four seconds after Guillemot. The 10,000 m final was started three hours early at the request of King Albert I, and Guillemot learned of this only after finishing a very large lunch. Fighting stomach cramps and shoes that were two sizes too big, as his own shoes had been stolen, Guillemot had to settle for silver behind Nurmi.
After the 1920 Olympics, Guillemot won the International Cross-country Championships in 1922 individually and led the French team to a first place in 1922 and 1926. He won the French Nationals in the 5K three times, but missed the 1924 Olympics due to disagreements between him and the French Athletics Union.
Personal Bests: 5000 – 14:55.6 (1920); 10000 – 31:47.2 (1920).
Athlete Olympic Results Content