Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Novlene could teach Javon a thing or two

Published:Monday | September 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I read Orville Higgins' article ('Donkey Man critics forming the ass', September 4, 2015) with much interest and agree with much of what he raised. Javon Francis is a fine athlete who has done Jamaica proud, and no doubt will continue to so do, and is unworthy of some of the criticism that has come his way.

Javon went for glory and in so doing ran faster than the competition. However, it was not good enough to be among the medals and some of us just can't seem to wrap our heads around that. Nonetheless, I wish to take issue with Higgins' analysis of Francis' execution of the race.

The race was almost a carbon copy of 2013. At that time, he got the baton in 5th place, ran himself into second, metres behind LaShawn Merritt and hung on for the silver medal, narrowly squeezing out the fast-closing Russian.

Fast-forward to 2015. He received the baton in the same position, made up ground and this time round, caught Meritt but couldn't resist the temptation to pass him. In the end, he faded and could only manage fourth.

Compare that run to what occurred in the women's equivalent race. Novlene Williams-Mills received the baton in second place, behind the American, Francena McCorory, then made up ground on her, but, in contrast, remained calm, timed her run perfectly, and beat McCorory to the line.

That's the point I would like to reinforce - timing. It's all about having the presence of mind to manage your energy and time your run when faced with formidable opposition. After catching McCorory, Novlene settled in her slip stream, eased up on the fast-twitch muscles, slowed lactic acid build-up, and ended up with enough reserve to pressure and pass her opponent with daylight to spare at the finish.

I think if Javon had adopted this approach, he probably would not have run the fastest time, but most certainly would have been among the medals.

I agree with you somewhat that 'Donkey Man' did his best and bettered everyone else's by doing the fastest time. But this is little consolation to what could have been.

Approach matters

The thrust of Mr Higgins' argument also suggests that there was no other approach Javon could have taken. Remember, Mr Higgins, this was not a 400m individual race; it was a relay with a totally different set of dynamics which required constant re-evaluation with each baton change. You also said that "it doesn't matter where you slow down or where you pick up the pace". Well, tell that to Novlene Williams-Mills.

I think THAT is the most fundamentally flawed reasoning I have heard in a long time and contradicts every tenet of how to execute such a race. I thank God you did not choose to become an athletics coach and hope that no coach takes you seriously.

Additionally, no one is suggesting that he should have run conservatively from the outset. That would have been foolhardy. Javon did the right thing by chasing down Meritt and catching him, but at that point he should have settled and not allow overexuberance to get the better of him.

If Javon had it do over, I'm certain his approach would be different. Kudos to him, though. He has the heart of a lion and we will see great things from him in the future and he will certainly learn from this experience.

ROBERT THOMSON

robert.thomson@boj.org.jm