July is a month Mark Lewis-Francis should see packed with crucial dates but instead he is facing heartbreak – his diary dates for the month centred on just one subject – rehabilitation.
Instead of making final preparations to jet out to the Beijing Olympics later this summer, the sprinter and former 4x100 Olympic gold medallist is instead facing a long and lonely road back to fitness after undergoing surgery on a torn Achilles tendon.
To add insult to injury, Lewis-Francis will also miss the highly coveted return of the Aviva National Championships which make a welcome return to Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium on July 11 after a four-year gap.
The event has been staged in Manchester since 2004 and for Birchfield Harrier Lewis-Francis to miss the return of such a big event to his local club is doubly galling.
Lewis-Francis said: “I am back in rehabilitation but still not really running at all yet never mind at speed and will probably not really be able to start running again properly until at least November.
“I have set myself the goal of being back fit and raring to go for the World Championships next year in Germany.”
Lewis-Francis admits his injury has been a long-term one and one which he chose at times to ignore – so desperate was he to continue for as long as possible in the sport that he loves.
He said: “I have had the problem, to be honest, for a couple of years and I had been complaining for some time about the pain.
“There were times when I would compete and then be limping at the end but I just tried to manage it myself and get on with it. I told myself I could just keep going. Then recently I realised the pain was getting so bad that I could not even run and it was beginning to affect my training schedule.”
The Darlaston-born athlete is saddened by the fact the Midlands will not be as represented in Beijing as it has been at Olympic competitions in the past. He said: “Over the years there were so many top Midland athletes like Denise Lewis, Nathan Douglas, Kelly Sotherton and I know there are not so many this time round which is a shame.
“More and more athletes seem to be London-based now but this area is my roots and I will always be proud to come back here and train and compete.”
The sprinter added that missing out on the National Championships in Birmingham was also a cruel blow.
He said: “I was dying to compete in this event in front of my home crowd at my home club – that would have been fantastic. I was so proud Birmingham had finally got them back.”
Lewis-Francis is still unsure who will win the 100m gold in Beijing with his money hedged between Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay but one thing he is sure of – the world record will be smashed.
He said: “Form goes out of the window in big competitions like this – Powell is probably the favourite but he was beaten by recently when nerves set in.”
Lewis -Francis knows the 2012 Olympics is some way off but is thrilled London will host the games and believes that will be a major boost for sport in the UK.
He said: “It is amazing the Olympics are coming to Britain and that really is a once in a lifetime event.
“I already know so many people who aim to be involved – that can only be good for the future of British athletics and sport in general,” he added.