Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Hubert Lawrence | Francis had help

Published:Thursday | September 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica's 4x400 metres quartet of (from left) Nathon Allen, Peter Matthews, Javon Francis and Fitzroy Dunkley, who won the silver medal at the recent Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

It's fascinating to hear talk of a new 4x400-metre anchor leg strategy for Javon Francis.

Truth is, the approach he took last year at the World Championship produced the joint fastest 4x400m leg by a Jamaican at 43.5 seconds.

At the recently concluded Olympics, Francis' reconfigured anchor leg took 43.8 seconds.

The circumstances were different. At the World Championships, a relay gold medal would have put Jamaica at the top of the medal table. To compound things, he was so far back at the final exchange that he had lots to do to get to the gold.

In Beijing, host city for the World Championships, his teammates had transported the baton through the first three legs in two minutes, 15.0 seconds. At the Olympics, Peter Matthews, Nathon Allen and Fitzroy Dunkley did the same journey in two minutes, 14.4 seconds to reduce the degree of difficulty for Francis.

There was less anchor-leg traffic as well. Trinidad and Tobago and Great Britain had beaten Jamaica to the silver and bronze medals at the World Championships. Unfortunately for them, they were both disqualified at the Olympics for marginal exchange zone violations.


Terrific relay men


That removed 400m finalist Machel Cedenio of Trinidad and Tobago and two-time European champion Martin Rooney of Britain from the obstacles in Francis' way on the anchor leg. Both are terrific relay men. In particular, Cedenio was in fine form in the individual 400m, judging from his national record run of 44.01 seconds.

This study shouldn't affect the value of the team's effort at the Olympics. In fact, it should put a smile on the faces of fans who long for a resurgence of Jamaican 4x400m power.

The numbers are clear. Even though Francis ran 0.3 slower on the anchor leg, the team ran 0.35 faster overall, with last year's time being two minutes, 58.51 seconds and the Olympic performance clocked in two minutes, 58.16 seconds.

Francis didn't have to kill himself to rescue the Olympic silver medal for Jamaica. That's because Matthews, Allen and Dunkley gave him the help good teammates should. Now he can save the heroics for a 4x400m gold medal run in the future.

- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.