Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Coaching milestone for Francis

Published:Tuesday | August 23, 2016 | 8:00 AMHubert Lawrence
Stephen Francis issuing instructions to his charges at a training session in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during the 2016 Olympic Games.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (left) celebrates with her MVP Track Club training partner, Elaine Thompson, following the women’s 100 metres final inside the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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Elaine Thompson moved to the forefront of women's sprinting with her gold medals in the just concluded Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

When she crossed the line first in the 100 metres in Rio, her victory vaulted coach Stephen Francis into an exclusive club. Her performance made Francis just the third man to coach three successive gold-medal winners in the women's 100 metres.

It first occurred in 1960, 1964 and 1968 when sprinters coached by Ed Temple won the 100m for the United States.

The first triumph was part of a 100/200/4x100m sprint triple by Wilma Rudolph at the Rome Olympics. That was followed by back-to-back 100-metre wins by Wyomia Tyus. Rudolph and Tyus were student-athletes under Temple's care at Tennessee State University.

Tyus was in fact, the first athlete, male or female, to defend an Olympic 100-metre title.

 

BACK-TO-BACK VICTORIES

 

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, coached by Francis for a decade, joined Tyus and Gail Devers with back-to-back 100m victories of her own in 2008 and 2012 and Thompson gave Francis a record equalling hat-trick in Rio.

Noted American coach, Bobby Kersee, conditioned Devers to hair-splitting wins in 1992 and 1996.

In 1992, Devers barely held off Jamaica's Juliet Cuthbert. Four years later, Merlene Ottey surged to within millimetres of Devers, who became the second woman win with the Olympic 100m twice.

Kersee also coached 1988 winner, Florence Griffith-Joyner, for much of her career. Her 200-metre silver medals in the 1984 Olympics and the 1987 World Championships came with Kersee directing her training.

However, she married 1984 Olympic triple jump champion, Al Joyner, and he took over as Florence's coach for the 1988 season. Before long, she returned to Kersee's guidance and raced away from her rivals in Seoul, the South Korean city that hosted the Olympic Games that year.

Fraser-Pryce and Thompson have come through the track and field programme at the University of Technology and the MVP Track Club, where Francis is the head coach.

With his coaching advice, Fraser-Pryce has also won an unprecedented trio of World Championship titles in the straight line dash. She and Thompson share the Jamaican 100-metre record at 10.70 seconds, which was set by Fraser-Pryce in 2012.

Thompson matched it at this year's National Senior Championships.