Sport

Javon Francis tells of pre-race chit-chat with Lashawn Merritt

BY HOWARD WALKER Observer senior reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, August 21, 2013    

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YOUNG Javon Francis might not have reached the final of the 400m individual event, but he had threatened to beat the American champion Lashawn Merritt on the final leg of the 4x400m relay, if he got the baton before him.

That's the kind of brash confidence the 18-year-old has and although he didn't achieve his feat, he certainly spanked the other runners with a blistering relay leg for silver.

Francis, 18, ran times of 45.37 seconds in his first-round heat but his 45.62 seconds in the semi-finals landed him fifth and out of the final.

The American Merritt, on the other hand, won in a world-leading 43.74 seconds in destroying a quality field, including defending champion Kirani James of Grenada.

Francis recounted to the Jamaica Observer his conversation with the American prior to and after the 4x400m relay.

"I saw him and I said 'Mr Lashawn Merritt' and he said, 'you are the 18-year-old?' I asked him what leg he was running and he said 'anchor leg'. So I said, 'so is me and you on the anchor leg'. Then I turned to him and said, 'you see if I get the baton before you, you nah go ketch mi. The only time you will see me is at the finish line'," said Francis.

"He looked at me and said 'that is a threat?' I said, 'yeah, take it as a threat'," replied Francis.

"You are a brave little young fellow," Francis claimed was Merritt's reply.

Francis, the precocious Calabar High student, said he continued the conversation by saying: "Is really long time I wanted to run with you guys to feel 44 and 43 pace and he said 'you have a big heart though'".

"I said 'don't be shocked if I run pass you'. But I told him we coming second still. I told him if I get the baton close, I will run him down and see if I can catch him," Francis reiterated.

With the Americans separating themselves after the third leg, Francis didn't get a chance to test Merritt, but his 44.00 split was one of the fastest and it propelled Jamaica from fifth spot to second.

After his splendid run, Francis said he engaged Merritt again and the latter acknowledged that the Jamaican was finishing fast. "I said to him that 'I was running down the Jamaican record'," Francis ended.

According to Francis, Merritt told him he was still young and that he had a good future ahead of him.

"He told me that when he saw me run it reminded him of the young days of Michael Johnson and Bert Cameron. Then he asked me for Gonzales," Francis noted.

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