Britain’s 200m No.1 has worked at building his self-belief
His performances might not show it, but Miguel Francis says he has struggled with self-belief and a lack of confidence in the past.
When he stands on the start line at the IAAF World Championships in Doha later this month, the sprinter knows that all of his nerves will disappear but managing those emotions in the lead-up is something which the 24-year-old has focused on.
“It has been really rough. At the beginning of my season, in my first two races, I struggled a lot. I didn’t know how I would compete coming back from injury. I was really nervous going into those races,” says Francis, who has returned to near top form this summer after undergoing surgeries on his right ankle and knee in the past couple of years.
“I struggled a lot with confidence and believing in myself,” adds the British 200m leader, who works with Glen Mills, coach of sprints great Usain Bolt, in Jamaica as part of the Racers Track Club. “It is something I am still working on right now, my coach is trying to get me to work on it – trying to believe in myself more and be more confident.”
But the Montserrat-born sprinter, who transferred his allegiance to Britain in 2017, adds that his performances so far this year have given him a boost, with a UK-leading 19.97 clocked at the Müller Anniversary Games in London and a third-place finish at the British Championships, which helped to secure his spot on the GB team for Doha.
“The races I have done have really boosted my confidence a lot,” he says.
“I was coming back from surgery in September last year. To come back and finally run 19 (seconds) again and have the season I’m having, I feel the best I’ve ever felt. I’m training really well and things are going smoothly.
“The beginning of the season was kind of rough, I had some small pains and stuff. I started back basically learning to run again, learning to sprint again. I had to make sure that I got my body – my hamstrings, quads – stronger so I can stay healthy.
“The times that I do in training, I run them so easily, to be honest. I train so well. But it is so hard for me to be confident heading into races. But when I get on the start line, it all disappears – my nerves and everything disappear. I just get really nervous before my races.
“It definitely isn’t because of who is in the race, it is just me not believing in myself and believing that I can run fast.”
“I started back basically learning to run again, learning to sprint again”
But Francis has already proven that he can. With some swift times this summer, and some solid training behind him, the best could still be yet to come.
The 19.97 he ran in London in July ranks him equal third on the British 200m all-time list alongside national champion Adam Gemili, behind only John Regis and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, though Francis does have a faster PB of 19.88 – just 0.01 off Regis’ best – which he ran in 2016.
That came after he represented Antigua & Barbuda at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 world championships, with Francis having moved there with his family when he was a few months old after a volcanic eruption on his home Caribbean island.
But the Wolverhampton & Bilston athlete, who has family in the West Midlands of England, was eligible for a transfer to GB with his birthplace being a British overseas territory and his mind is now on medals as he races for GB in the 200m and forms part of the 4x100m squad in Doha.
“I know myself. I know when I get to Doha I won’t have any problems confidence wise,” he says. “Anything is possible. I feel like I can definitely be in the mix.
“This is something I want. I don’t want to go my whole career and never win a major medal. It’s something that I want to achieve.”