COMMONWEALTH GAMES: Lewis-Francis anchors England to second sprint relay gold
MARK Lewis-Francis rolled back the years to anchor England to sprint relay victory in Delhi - six years after he romped over the line to secure Olympic gold for Great Britain.
GOLDEN BOYS; (L-R) Leon Baptiste, Ryan Scott, Mark Lewis-Francis and Marlon Devonish clinch 4x100m gold at Delhi 2010 (Reuters)
Just as he did in Athens in 2004, Lewis-Francis, 28, received the baton from Marlon Devonish and roared down the home straight to continue his career's resurgence and lead England to a superb gold medal.
After years on the sidelines and having had his funding cut, Lewis-Francis now has three major international medals this season including individual silvers 100m from the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
It was not all plain sailing however and the first changeover between Ryan Scott and 200m champion Leon Baptiste was anything but smooth.
Devonish ran an excellent bend however to put England in contention but handed over to Lewis-Francis, who had plenty of work to do to close the gap on Jamaican anchor Remaldo Rose.
In 2004, Lewis-Francis received the baton with a sizeable advantage and had to keep at bay a blistering challenge from the USA's Maurice Greene - the double Olympic champion.
But with the boot on the other foot, Lewis-Francis hunted the Jamaican down and pipped him to the line honours in 38.75 seconds and with a winning margin of 0.04, before erupting in jubilation. Bronze went to India, much to the delight of the home crowd, in 38.89.
At the European Championships in Barcelona, Devonish and Lewis-Francis fluffed their lines - but when it mattered in Delhi, the two Olympic champions combined to devastating effect.
It marks a remarkable reversal of fortunes for Mark Lewis-Francis, and brings to an end his Commonwealth Games curse.
In Manchester in 2002, he and Dwain Chambers were hot favourites for gold and silver. In 2000 he had been crowned world junior champion and a year later he clocked 9.97 seconds at the World Championships.
The time was not legal but it didn't stop Lewis-Francis earning the moniker the world's fastest teenager. And so Manchester was due to represent his first major championship victory - only for injury to strike him (and Chambers) down in the final.
Four years later he arrived at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne as an Olympic champion yet already his career was in steady decline.
Disqualification Down Under, coupled with a bungled relay campaign, ensured Lewis-Francis' Commonwealth misfortune continued.
He has not been seen on the big stage since and Achilles injuries threatened the end of his career. But the most surprising of silver medals in Barcelona this summer has now been followed up with Commonwealth silver and gold.
"It's been a long and hard season and I'm just grateful to be here," said Lewis-Francis. "It reminds me a lot of 2004. I'm over the moon about now and it's justification of a lot of hard work.
"These are all stepping stones. At the end of the day I have had a terrible two years and I don't want to keep banging on about it but this goes to show I am more mature and more committed, dedicated athlete.
"This is where I want to be. I spent two years at home rehabbing trying to get back competing at an international level and this proves I can compete with some of the best."
Meanwhile, Obi Oyepitan upgraded her 200m silver to 4x100m gold, anchoring England to a superb relay victory.