Ben Johnson's Former Coach, Charlie Francis Dies of Cancer

>> May 17, 2010

Ben Johnson's former coach Charlie Francis died of cancer on May 12, 2010 at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto. Francis had been battling the disease for five years. He was 61 years old.

Charlie Francis brought innovative coaching strategies to Canadian sprinting that are still used today. And off the track he was well-known for his generosity.

Charlie helping to mould Johnson into the world's fastest man over 100m. However, Johnson’s career became mired in controversy when he stripped of his gold medal of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul along with the world record of 9.79sec after testing positive for the stanozolol, a type of steroid. Johnson was suspended from athletics while Francis was banned from coaching after admitting to Canada's Dubin Inquiry that he had introduced his sprinter to performance enhancing drugs

About Charlie Francis


Ben Johnson and his coach Charlie Francis

Charlie Francis was born on October 13, 1948 in Toronto, Ontario Canada. He was a sprint coach most remarkably for being the coach of sprinter, Ben Johnson. He was one of the best sprinters in the world back in 1971.

Charlie’ relationship to sprinting has been long one. In 1966, he recorded an Ontario Juvenile record of 9.6s for the 100 yard sprint.

In 1968, Charlie accepted an athletics scholarship to Stanford University in Northern California, where he studied political science and history and received a bachelor’s degree in 1971.

In 1971, Charlie was being coached by Payton Jordan at Stanford at the time he clocked 10.1s for 100m in Vancouver which subsequently placed him number 5 in the world based on this performances.

He was also the Canadian champion for 100m from 1970-1973 and competed for Canada at the 1972 Olympics in Munich where he reached the second round with times of 10.51s and 10.68s. In 1973, at only 23 years old, Charlie retired from sprinting.

His coaching career began in 1976, when he works with a group of junior sprinters under the Scarborough Optimists track and field club at York University. In 1981, he became the first coach in Canada to be hired as a training centre coach.

In 1982, after only one year in the sprint training centre, his sprinters produced 89 personal bests, 2 Canadian records and 3 Commonwealth records. Charlie’s well-known female sprinter, Angela (Taylor) Issajenko was ranked 4th in the world for the 100m. Sprinter Desai William held the Canadian record at 10.17s for 100 and had won a silver medal at World Student Games in 1983. Tony Sharpe ranked number 3 in the world in 1982 by clocking 20.22s. Ben Johnson also had a 10.19s personal best in the 100m. At the 1982 Commonwealth Games, Charlie’s athletes assembled a total of 13 medals.

At 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, athletes coached by Charlie won 8 of 14 medals acquired by Canada’s track team. Charlie Francis forged one of the world’s leading sprint teams whose runners set 250 Canadian records, 32 world records and won 9 Olympic medals.

Charlie-coached athletes’ best performances in the sprints are as follows:

50y >> 5.15s Ben Johnson ... 5.74s Angela Issajenko
50m >> 5.55s Ben Johnson ... 6.06s Angela Issajenko
60y >> 6.01s Ben Johnson ...
60m >> 6.41s Ben Johnson ... 7.08s Angela Issajenko
100m >> 9.79s Ben Johnson ... 10.97s Angela Issajenko
200m >> 20.22s Tony Sharpe ... 22.25s Angela Issajenko
400m >> 45.91s Desai William ... 50.5s Angela Issajenko

References:

Charlie Francis. Training for Speed. Canberra, ACT: Union Offset Co Pty Ltd, 1997.

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