Wed | Dec 19, 2018

'Lion' Francis had no fear

Published:Wednesday | August 21, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Minister with responsibility for sports, Natalie Neita-Headley (left), is overcome with joy as she admires the silver medal won by Javon Francis in the men's 4x400 metres, while his teammate, Omar Johnson (right), and other Jamaicans look on following the presentation ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter

Javon Francis departed the island for the 14th IAAF World Championships as the youngest member on the Jamaica team.

That apart, he was unknown to many outside track and field circles, and the world at large.

However, he emerged from the championships known to everyone as the man who almost single-handedly launched his team from a non-podium position to a silver medal in the men's 4x400m relay.

The 18-year-old ran a 44.00-second split on a stupendous anchor leg to earn the country to a silver medal in a time of 2:59.88. The United States won in 2:58.71

"I went there (World Champs) as no one, but I told myself that I have to get a medal and I just stayed focused; that was my game plan," Francis revealed.

Despite being the youngest member on the team and the least experienced, Francis was given the responsibility to run the last leg, a task he embraced.

"When we had the team meeting, the coach (Maurice Wilson) said, 'Francis you are on the anchor leg' and everyone was like, 'Yes, because you have been running the anchor leg all season and you have been running so well, look at Penn Relays.'

"My smile got bright because I said to myself 'yes!', this is what I want, to show the world who is Javon Francis. So I told them that I am a born lion and a lion doesn't have any fear, so give me the job, I am ready to work and I came here to work."

Anxious

Francis was so anxious to get out on the track and show what he was capable that he could not sleep properly the night before the final.

"From the night before the final, I was excited; I got up in the night and put on my clothes and fell asleep in them," Francis revealed. "Then I got up early again in the morning and was asking my teammate, Jason Livermore, 'What time is it? What time is it?'"

During the race itself, Francis showed maturity beyond his years, as he quickly sized up his competition and backed himself to take them on. And what a way he went about it, as he sped past three runners and held off Russia's late charge to crown himself and Jamaica in glory.

"When I saw the other runners, I was just there saying, 'Bring it, youth, bring it, youth' and when it reached Omar Johnson (third-leg runner) and we were in fifth place, I said: 'All right and I looked around and said I can beat him, I can beat him, all right,'" Francis recounted.

"Then I saw Omar coming down the straight and I called him and said, 'Come, come.' When I got the baton there were four guys in front of me, and I said, 'Yes, this is it.'

"I blasted through the first 200m and I let that speed bring me on the backstretch and I passed the competitors. And I was saying to myself, 'How it looks like I am going slow and I really wanted to close the gap on LaShawn Merritt'.

"I was going after the national record, too, but we missed it," recounted Francis.

"But that wasn't our strongest team and it was a young team," added the Calabar High Champs 400m Class One champion, the youngest on the Jamaica team to the World Championships.

The anchor-leg performance in the men's 4x400m has now put his name on the lips of many, not only in track and field circles here, but the world at large. And most of all, it led Jamaica and the lion-hearted Francis to satisfy his goal of getting 'a medal'.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com