Mark Lewis – Francis (M.B.E.)

Mark Lewis-Francis, MBE is a British track and field athlete, specialising in the 100 metres. At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Mark anchored the British 4 x 100 metres relay team to a Gold medal. Mark has also won Gold in the Europeans in 2006 and Gold again at the Commonwealth games in 2010. Individually Mark has won silver in the 100m at both the 2010 European Athletics Championships and the Commonwealth games in the same year, while throughout his career he’s also won numerous bronze medals. In 2015 Mark answered his country’s call once again, making the Switch to Bobsleigh, where he represented the British team at World level right up until just last year.

Mark grew up without his Father in the home and told us that growing up without his Dad was difficult and as a result he really struggled at school with his behaviour. At just 12 years old he was excluded from school for 6 months and at that point no other school in the whole region would have him. That meant that eventually he had to attend a school, which wasn’t mainstream and was deigned particularly for excluded students. Students who in many people’s eyes would have been deemed as failures with no hope of making anything of their lives.. It was there that Mark told us he realised that he wasn’t a bad kid he just needed guidance. He told us that there he was nurtured by a teacher called Ms Hathaway, who recognised his gift for athletics and it was from there that he went to achieve all that he has in sport. He knew that it was up to him to be successful as the opportunities were out there, He would just have to go out and find them and make the most of those chances when he did.

Mark learnt though that things don’t always go to plan and even when he’d reached one level of success there were still times when he had to overcome setbacks and failures and still keep believing. Mark told us this was the case many times but that there was one situation that will always stand out. It was in 2008 then 2009 when Mark tore both achilles tendons. He was completely written off, especially when he didn’t even qualify in the top 3 for the individual 100m team in 2010, he was though taken as part of the relay team and while there, so impressed the coaches in training, that they gave him the 3rd spot for the Individuals. They took Mark aside and said, if you can make top ten we’ll be happy. No way! Mark wanted much more and in the end made the final, which meant guaranteed he’d make top eight but he wasn’t done there. Mark went on to astound the world when in that final, he crossed the line in second place taking a Silver medal. That year he incredibly went on to take another silver at the Commonwealth games

When I asked him if his faith in God had helped him He said without doubt. Sometimes you could be forgiven for thinking that someone would  only have reason to have  faith when things are going their way and that when life has been as difficult as Mark’s has been, that there would be very few reasons to believe that God loves you and has a plan for you but for Mark it was different he knew that having come from where he had and still being able t achieve so much meant that things in his life weren’t down to just luck but the fact that someone else was always with him no matter how bad things ever got . Mark recalled as a final note“I always believed there was something bigger than me something that was guiding me. Every time I stood on the start line in front of thousands of people I said a prayer that I would prevail. Without faith I felt I had nothing.”

As we said Mark also competed for 2 years in Bobsleigh but with his passion for athletics and young people he was desperate to give back and so now Mark is working hard to achieve all the relevant coaching qualifications. Having grown up as we mentioned without a Father but knowing God was always a Father to him, he feels that being a Father figure to others, as well as now to his own son and 2 little girls is something that’s a privilege and an honour and so now he’s looking forward to being an inspiration to many of you here through the Fight for the Fatherless. Were going to look more into Marks switch into the Bobsleigh world another time and tell a little more of his story but for now we’d like to say a massive thank you from us all.