A well-deserved OJ for Mr Stephen Francis

Saturday, October 21, 2017

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Fifteen individuals were honoured for their contributions and service to sports at the Ceremony of Investiture and Presentation of National Honours and Awards at King's House on Monday, National Heroes' Day.

This newspaper offers congratulations to all 15 for their various contributions.

Topping the list in terms of the highest honour and for certain impact on his chosen sport of athletics is head coach of the MVP Track Club Mr Stephen Francis. Mr Francis received Jamaica's fourth highest award, the Order of Jamaica (OJ).

“Franno”, as he is affectionately known not only in track and field, is well deserving of this signal honour, as he has been a true game changer in the development of Jamaica's athletic prowess and dominance especially of the sprints over the last 10-15 years.

While Jamaica's athletics, since 1948, has achieved worldwide acclaim with the performances of Messrs Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, Donald Quarrie, Bertland Cameron, Miss Merlene Ottey, Mrs Deon Hemmings McCarty and many others, it had become the norm for our athletes, after leaving high school, to travel mainly to the United States for coaching and continuance of their track and field careers.

While some limited attempts were made to hone home-grown talents, it was Mr Francis who energised the concept with the strong belief that world-class athletes could be produced right here on the 'rock'.

From humble beginnings, Mr Francis along with his band of fellow believers set about the task of coaching, representing and managing some of the most precocious and talented athletes to ever don the black, green and gold of Jamaica. Passing through the gates of MVP and, by extension, the hands of Mr Francis were Mr Asafa Powell, Mrs Bridgette Foster-Hylton, Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Miss Sherone Simpson, Miss Melanie Walker, Mr Germaine Mason, and Miss Elaine Thompson, among others.

Now, mainly because of the coaching talent and dogged determination of Mr Francis, a whole new vista of opportunity has been opened for Jamaica's young athletes, even for those who did not shine under the glaring and paparazzi-like spotlight of Boys' and Girls' Championships.

Others are now following in Mr Francis' footsteps with the end result being a more coordinated, structured and better designed track and field programme for Jamaica. For this game-changing development we have to give our thanks and appreciation to Mr Francis.

He has never been one who is afraid to voice his concerns pertaining to track and field, nor has he ever shied away from vociferously defending the rights and privileges of those under his care, oftentimes finding himself in conflict with the authorities. So we are encouraged with his statement after he received his award on Monday: “I know that there are a lot of Jamaicans out there who say that they really like the job that we do at MVP, and what we have done over the years, so I think this is a good token for them, and it's added motivation to continue doing what we have been doing.”

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