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No regrets for McFarlane ... after five relay silver medals at World Championships

Published:Sunday | April 19, 2015 | 12:00 AMGordon Williams
Danny McFarlane in action on the Grand Prix circuit.

Every two years, for more than two decades, Jamaica's Danny McFarlane has either been immersed in World Championships (WC) competition or debate about his role in track's greatest spectacle outside of the Olympics Games.

As another WC looms in August, the shadow of five straight silver medals McFarlane earned on Jamaica's 4x400 metres relay teams between 1995 and 2003 follows him.

But if Merlene Ottey was a reluctant 'Bronze Queen', for failing to win enough global gold to satisfy critics, McFarlane embraces his silver stash, including 4x400 runner-up at the 2000 Olympics, plus second in the 400 metres hurdles at the 2004 Games.

"It makes me look back and think I was an outstanding athlete," the record co-holder for the most consecutive WC appearances, starting in 1993, said on April 14 from his United States (US) base.

Like Ottey, McFarlane sprinkled his career with defining victories, including 4x400 gold at the 2003 World Indoor Championships, 1999 Pan Am and 2001 CAC games. His streak of WC relay silver, however, underlines his legacy. McFarlane said he's not consumed by it. Yet, for each WC 'Danny Mac' missed gold, he can pinpoint factors which determined the outcome.

Take 1995 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

"Honestly," according to McFarlane, Jamaica couldn't win.

"Not with the US having Butch Reynolds and Michael Johnson."

 

third-leg clash

 

McFarlane didn't spare himself recalling his third-leg clash with Reynolds, the WC 400 silver medallist.

"Every move I made he kept leading more," McFarlane laughed. "It's like my move wasn't anything. The gap just kept getting wider and wider."

Reynolds passed to 400 champion, Johnson, who easily held off Gregory Haughton. US clocked two minutes 57.32 seconds, Jamaica 2:59.88.

"We never had a chance," said McFarlane.

Two years later in Athens, Greece, however, he was more optimistic. There was no Johnson or Reynolds in the final.

"We could have won that race," McFarlane said.

US again crossed the line first. Jamaica only managed third behind Great Britain (GB). So in 2008, when Antonio Pettigrew admitted "cheating" by using performance-enhancing drugs, and US was disqualified, GB were elevated to gold and Jamaica silver.

 

costly Mistakes

 

It wasn't the last time penalising America would affect Jamaica's WC fate. But McFarlane is convinced Jamaica could have beaten GB and US in 1997. Mistakes, including his own, proved costly.

"I was not 100 per cent coming off a respiratory infection," McFarlane said of his third leg run. "... So I hesitated in making the move. I wasn't sure of my endurance."

His changeover with Davian Clarke "was not the best" either, McFarlane admitted, and the anchor's strategy was questionable, too.

"He finished really, really fast," McFarlane recalled. "So maybe if he had kept closer contact we could have beat them ... That was a chance we missed."

GB clocked 2:56.65 seconds, edging Jamaica's new national record 2:56.75.

Johnson's return tempered Jamaica's gold aspirations by WC 1999 in Seville, Spain.

"We didn't have much chance with Michael Johnson on the US team," McFarlane remembered. "He had broken the world record (with 43.18 seconds in the 400 final). Plus they had Pettigrew and (Jamaican-born) Jerome Young (both 400 finalists).

"It wasn't realistic to win gold ... They were just better at that time."

Pettigrew's doping admission eventually disqualified the US But Jamaica, after finishing behind Poland, were again left with silver.

Unlike the three previous WC, Clarke and Michael McDonald didn't run in the 4x400 final in Edmonton, Canada, where McFarlane and Haughton were joined by Brandon Simpson and Christopher Williams. The US had changed, too, by 2001, boosting Jamaica's confidence.

"We went into that race thinking we could win," said McFarlane, "because there was no Michael Johnson."

Yet, concerns lingered. Haughton's brilliant effort earned bronze in the 400m, but also drained him for the relay's third leg.

"Our best runner, Gregory Haughton, was tired because he went through the 400 metres rounds," said McFarlane, who anchored. "... We ended up paying for that."

The Bahamas, boasting 400m winner Avard Moncour on anchor, led McFarlane to another silver.

Yet, by 2003, in Paris, France, McFarlane still believed he could snatch the elusive gold. At first, he wasn't sure of a relay place because he qualified for the WC in the 400m hurdles, not the 400m.

"I didn't want to take someone else's spot," McFarlane explained. "But everyone seemed comfortable with it, so I ran it."

Michael Blackwood had finished third in the 400m. The experienced Clarke and Simpson returned.

"It was a solid team," said McFarlane. "We felt good and confident ."

But physical strain exposed cracks.

"We never feared anyone," said McFarlane, who ran the second leg. "But we had a lot of heavy legs - me, Blackwood, Simpson."

The US won, but were later disqualified for another doping violation. Yet, Jamaica, again, settled for silver after finishing behind France.

Paris marked McFarlane's last shot at winning 4x400 WC gold. But there's no regret.

"A lot of men would not accomplish what I have," said McFarlane, 42, who stopped competing in 2012. "I have 10 international medals. I'm good.

"I feel satisfied I did my best," he added. " ... I would have liked to get gold, but it just never worked out .... I don't let it rule my life."