Joseph Guillemot's lungs were severely damaged by mustard gas when he fought in World War I and his heart was located on the right side of his chest. Despite this, Guillemot, a diminutive athlete (160 cm/54 kg), but with extraordinary vital capacity, won his regiment's cross-country championships in 1918. In 1919 Guillemot won the French Military Championships, followed by his first national championship title in the 5K in 1920, which qualified him for the Olympic Games. In Antwerp the main favorite in the distances was Paavo Nurmi. In the 5,000 final Nurmi devised a bold strategy in order to exhaust the dangerous Swedes Eric Backman and Rudolf Falk in the first half of the race. After three laps Nurmi took the lead and built more speed and only Guillemot followed him. At midway Guillemot still refused to yield and Nurmi began to lose heart. On the final curve Guillemot moved to pass Nurmi on the outside and, unaccustomed to final stretch sprinting, Nurmi gave up completely and jogged to the finish line four seconds after Guillemot had broken the tape. The 10,000 m final was brought forward by almost three hours by the request of King Albert I. Guillemot heard of this only after finishing a very large lunch. Fighting with stomach cramps and shoes that were two sizes too big, as his own shoes had been stolen, Guillemot settled for the 10K silver. After the Olympics Guillemot won the International Cross-Country Championships in 1922 individually and led France to the team title in 1922 and 1926. He won the French Nationals at 5K three times, but missed the 1924 Olympics due to disagreements between him and French Athletics Union.
Personal Bests: 5000 – 14:55.6 (1920); 10000 – 31:47.2 (1920).