Melanie Walker back at MVP Track ClubSaturday, August 05, 2017
LONDON, England — Jamaica's 2008 Olympic 400m hurdles champion Melaine Walker has made a spectacular return to the Maximising Velocity and Power (MVP) Track and Field Club after an acrimonious split with Head Coach Stephen Francis in 2013.
Walker, now 34 years old, left the powerful Francis-led MVP in 2013 and joined the Racers Track Club before going overseas to train at the Altis World training base in Phoenix, Arizona. There she was conditioned by Andreas Behm, who also coaches the American pair of 110m hurdle world record holder Aries Merritt and 400m hurdler Queen Harrison.
Walker wanted to pursue her long-time dream of running the 100m hurdles, but Francis would have none of it. She later described him as a dictator who neglected her.
But this surprising return was confirmed by Francis to the Jamaica Observer here in London.
“We have had discussions with Melaine and I think it's mutual that she wants to be back in Jamaica training. I have never had a problem with Melaine,” said Francis after just concluding another training session here at the Olympic Park.
“I mean, Melaine is one of my favourite athletes of all time, so I am hoping that she will come and we can help her to meet her expectations,” he noted.
Walker was a sensational athlete for St Jago High School where she ran the 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles and even had a victory over Veronica Campbell-Brown in Class Two of the 100m and 200m .
Walker then joined the MVP camp in 2007 and was guided to 400m hurdles victory at the Olympic Games in 2008 in an Olympic record of 52.64 seconds. She went even faster, capturing the 2009 IAAF World Championships gold in 52.42, making her the second fastest woman in history. Only world record holder Yuliya Pechenkina with 52.34 seconds has gone faster.
But the usually stern Francis revealed that he will allow Walker to dictate which event she wants to compete in. He said he is just willing to help her.
“At her current age, I am hoping that she decides to run the 400 hurdles. But you have to respect her seniority at this time [but], I am hoping that it's the 400m hurdles,” said Francis.
“She is at a stage now where she is not paid to run the 400m, so it is important for her at this stage in her life to be content,” he added.
But Francis believes he can get Walker back to that form which saw her dominate the world with a series of 52-second runs, something which the current crop of hurdlers are struggling to achieve.
“I suspect it is possible but I don't know, so we will see. We have had challenges with her and Shelly [Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce] and I like these challenges. So we will see what happens,” said Francis.
Francis also revealed that the door is still open for former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell, who also left the camp in 2013.
“Asafa has had an open invitation for a long while, so I don't know what he will eventually decide to do. But certainly he knows that whenever he wants to come he is welcome,” said Francis.
Powell was the marquee athlete who helped put MVP on the map with a series of outstanding displays, culminating in two world record runs.
— Howard Walker
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