Mark Lewis-Francis backs Darryl Neita for Commonwealth success

Mark Lewis-Francis backs Darryl Neita for Commonwealth success

Mark Lewis-Francis made his name holding off an Olympic champion and is now backing Daryll Neita to do the same.

The Birmingham sprint star shocked the world when he overhauled Maurice Greene on the final leg of the 4x100m relay at the Athens Olympics in 2004 to offer England the gold.

Now retired, he will attend the renovated Alexander Stadium on Wednesday for the women’s 100m final which could pit Jamaica’s triple Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah against British champion Neita.

And for Lewis-Francis, Neita’s chances will rest on her belief that she has what it takes to beat the best in the world.

He said: “The last two years, I’ve watched Daryll progress. She’s amazing, her composure, her mannerism, her ability to race with the big superstars and not get side-tracked by it. I think she’s the truth, she’s the future. British sprinting for the females now is top of the game and I’m loving watching it from my couch at home. I really am a supporter.

“I’ll be up there watching the final in the stands. It will be an exciting evening. The sky is the limit, nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself, and I believe she believes in herself that she can be the best.

“We’ve got amazing talent when it comes to sprinting, but the girls are absolutely knocking it out the ballpark. They need their flowers because they are doing Great Britain very proud.”

This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, comprises of over 400 athletes, all vying for medal success.

Now 39, Lewis-Francis admitted that he was jealous of those athletes competing at Birmingham 2022.

But with the Alexander Stadium packed out for every session of athletics, there was also immense pride at what the city has achieved.

He added: “I’m absolutely beaming with pride now. I think Birmingham has put on an amazing show. I’m proud that I’ve been a part of it. I’m a retired athlete, just to be here and soak up the experience and later in the week, to bring my youngsters to experience it, is a great honour.

“I turned up this morning and I could just feel a buzz in the air. I know the city is having fun and enjoying what I’ve experienced for my whole life. It’s good to be able to share my city with the people who have come over to visit.

“I’m so jealous (of the stadium) but it’s good for the future and it’s good for grassroots athletics. Let’s inspire the next generation, let’s leave a legacy and create future champions to come out of Birmingham. Birmingham has so much talent, now we have got the facilities to nurture them.”

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