Patience is a medal virtue

Mature, patient Javon Francis leads Jamaica to 4x400m Olympic silver

BY KARL ANGELL Executive Editor Operations

Sunday, August 28, 2016

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What a difference a year can make.

Rewind to last year and the 4x400m relay final at the World Championships in Beijing, China and who can ever forget Javon Francis receiving the baton from Rusheen McDonald behind teams from the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Great Britain and Belgium.

Then in one fell swoop, Francis, with almost unnatural speed, quickly overtook all his rivals including Olympic champion Lashawn Merritt shortly after settling down on the backstretch.

This demonstration of speed so early on the final leg caught the attention of the British race commentator who said: "All the British runner needs to do now is wait, as surely Francis cannot continue at this speed."

Francis melted, he crumbled to pieces in the final 100m with Merritt leading the Americans to victory over the Trinidadians with Britain earning the bronze, if only just.

Even before Francis could catch his breath the comments were swirling and they were stinging.

"Why did he go so fast, so early in the race? We lost a certain medal because of an irrational run by Francis. What a piece of foolishness! Those were some of the more moderate comments hurled in the direction of Francis, a former star for Calabar at Boys’ Champs.

Fast forward to 2016 and the Games of the 31st Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the final of the 4x400m relay with Francis once again on the final leg.

Would history repeat itself? Had Francis matured enough to run a better leg? The anxiety, the fears were still omnipresent even after Francis had run a much more tempered last leg in the semi-finals to guide Jamaica to the final.

Saturday, August 20, 2016 was the penultimate day of the Rio Olympics and time for the final track event, the 4x400m relay.

Peter Matthews started the quest for gold, or a medal at least, then it was over to Nathon Allen, with Fitzroy Dunkley on the third leg passing the baton in fourth position to Francis. In front were the USA, Botswana and The Bahamas.

In a very measured run, Francis kept his cool, there was no hint of wanting to take over, he was as cool as the Rio weather conditions allowed.

Saving his best for last, that is, the final 100m, Francis produced a terrific finish to flash past the runners from Botswana and The Bahamas to achieve what had eluded him and his team-mates in Beijing, a medal, only this time it was an Olympic silver medal.

His split of 43.78 seconds was not his fastest ever but those 43.78 seconds served to define a new ethos, a new paradigm for a young man who had obviously taken the time to learn from his previous mistakes.

Before our very eyes, Javon Francis had matured and had worn the black, green and gold with ripened knowledge and a settled countenance.

Well done, Mr Francis and your coach Mr Michael Clarke, as a grateful nation says thanks.

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