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Javon Francis’ stupendous run speaks volumes to 400m revival

BY PAUL A REID Observer writer

Monday, August 19, 2013    

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MOSCOW, Russia — Jamaica's silver medal performance in the men's 4x400m finals on Friday night in the Luzhniki stadium at the 14th IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia, has renewed hope that the once proud reputation of Jamaican male quarter-mile running is on the rise once again.

A quartet anchored by 18-year-old schoolboy Javon Francis and with an average age of just about 22 years old, upstaged Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce's win in the 200m to complete her first World Championships sprint double and the first for a Jamaican female.

Francis got the baton in fifth place and after rounding runners from Russia, Belgium and Great Britain and went after 400m champion Leshawn Merritt who was anchoring the USA team, but came up short and held on for the silver medal, the ninth medal for Jamaica in the event who are still searching for that elusive gold.

Until Martin Manley's gold medal performance at the IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine last month, no Jamaican male had managed to get on the podium of a global championships in 13 years, since the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia when Gregory Haughton took the bronze medal.

Last year Francis had lowered his personal best two times to make it to the final of the 400m at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona only to place eighth and a year later made the Jamaican team to contest the event here in Moscow.

Theories were that the success of the short sprinters, Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell especially, had caused the young sprinters to seek their fortunes in the 100m and 200m rather than the 400m.

Despite no Jamaican male getting past the semi-final stages, it is the belief that the foundation has been set for the revival of the 400m that has served Jamaica well in the past when Arthur Wint and Herb McKinley put us on the map with gold and silver at the London Olympic Games in 1948, and followed by George Rhoden, Bertland Cameron, who won the first-ever World Championships gold medal in Helsinki, Finland in 1983; as well as Haughton, Davian Clarke, Michael McDonald and Michael Blackwood.

Jermaine Gonzales holds the present National Senior Record 44.40 seconds in 2010 at an IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco, breaking Roxbert Martin's 44.49 that was set in 1997.

Davian Clarke's National Junior Record 45.21 seconds was set in 1995.

With all these statistics piling up, the odds against a resurgence in the men's 400m, Maurice Wilson, technical leader for the Jamaican team in Moscow and head coach of the last two teams to Daegu World Championships and London Olympic, says it is just a matter of time before the 400m reassert itself.

“This thing about 400m people being short is just a cycle,” he told the Jamaica Observer, “We have so much talent that it cycles itself and this is a reflection of that and we have quality 400m runners in our ranks.”

Wilson said the future was indeed bright for both the male and female but there was work to be done if these talents are to bear fruit.

“In my estimation the future for the 4x400m for both men and women is bright, but we can't sit on our laurels and expect the talent is going to manifest itself through the wood work... we must put things in place,” he said.

Edino Steele, who won a bronze medal with the 4x400m team in Daegu, and was the defacto leader of this group given his experience, said the programme was on the right path and the 4x400m gold could come in Beijing in 2015 at the next World Championships.

“We feel good, it's been a long time coming; we got a bronze in Deagu, and get silver here, so hopefully the next WC we can get a gold medal, it's step by step.

“I know Jamaicans are looking for the next great quarter miler to come out of the blue but we must work at it and we have to be patient, everybody has their time and I think the time is coming with this group of youngsters and it going to be our time soon,” he said.

The Jamaican 400m pool is also deep, Steel pointed out saying there are others who did not make this team but will play their part in the future. “It's time to get going and we can do it, Javon Francis proved it, Javere Bell proved it, Errol Nolan proved it at the Penn Relays, Rusheen ran a great first leg and Omar held his own for us here,” said Steel.

Meanwhile, it has been officially confirmed that Jamaica’s Francis had the fastest anchor leg in the men’s 4x400m relay at the 14th IAAF World Championships at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, on Friday.

According to Seiko, the official time keepers for the championships, he split 44.05 seconds.

In an email to the Observer showing the breakdown of the eight teams, Francis’ time was faster than anyone else in the race.

Lashawn Merrit, who anchored the USA team to victory, was clocked in 44.77 seconds.

Meanwhile, the official splits for the Jamaican team showed lead off runner Rusheen McDonald running 46.01 seconds, Edino Steel split 44.29, while Omar Johnson was timed in 45.53 seconds.

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