Charlie Francis has died

I talked to speedcoach and esti about going up to toronto to meet charlie and train with him. This was last year and unfortunately he was not feeling to well so we had to cancel the trip. This year we were talking about goin again cause they said YOU GOTTA MEET HIM, TRUST ME. The only question I had was am I going as a athlete or coach. Unfortunately I wont have that chance to meet him. That being said I will do my best to carry on his teachings and methodology to remember him by. My condolences to his family (angie, James).

My condolences to Charlie’s family and friends. We have lost a true great coach and I owe a great deal to him for all the wisdom he has shared. RIP

Charlie had a very large impact on how I train and will continue to train. And how ill coach in the future. Forever grateful to him, and this message board.
My condolences to his family.

RIP charlie.

RIP Charlie… this was a shock for me. My condolences to his family. :*(

r.i.p Coach Francis.

What he did for the people of this forum & sprint world is invaluable. The information he provided will help athletes for many years to come.

The track and field community has been devastated today by this loss. Individuals like him are so rare; an incredibly gifted teacher willing to speak his mind, follow his own path, and share all his wisdom with others. What I’ve learned from him has completely shaped my athletic career. All the best to his family.

I have one of my most treasured possessions in my second drawer in my office here at work. It’s a book that use to sit on a chest of drawers in my bedroom, but a few weeks ago I took it to work so I could look at it from time to time. A week doesn’t go by where I don’t open it up just to read a paragraph or a quote.

Today I had special cause to look at it as I read the news of the death of the greatest athletic mind the world has seen – he is of course the author of that book: “SPEED TRAP”.

The fact I’ve got SPEED TRAP here in my office is a little eerie given what has just happened, but I’m so glad it’s here with me as it has something special that no other copy has. On the opening page it has a message from the author - “To Youngy: all the best – Charlie Francis 13 Jan 2007”

In the 1980’s as a sprinter on the pro running scene, I became aware of Charlie Francis by the exceptional results from his Canadian sprint squad, in particular Ben Johnson. I was at home watching the Victorian Football League Grand Final on that infamous day in athletic history – Saturday September 24th 1988 when it crossed to the Olympic Games and the 100m final.

I saw the most unbelievable race in sprinting history (up until then) when Ben Johnson smashed a field that included the world’s greatest all round athlete in Carl Lewis. The time of 9.79 was simply unbelievable.

As time unfolded and the details of the drugs usage became more wider known, like many I ‘went off’ Charlie and for a few years became ambivalent to him and his methods.

In the late 90’s as I commenced my coaching journey, I decided to put all past prejudices aside and sought out sprinting knowledge from a variety of sources. After many hours researching, learning & absorbing everything I could on the subject, I found a common denominator with a lot of the successful sprint training methodologies used by coaches on the American continent. That common denominator was Charlie Francis.

The more I read the more I realised that Charlie’s coaching success had a lot less to do with a drug protocol and infinitely more to do with his unique ability to prescribe a training program that simply delivered seriously fast athletes.

In my quest to learn more about Charlie’s the man & his methods I discovered the Charlie Francis website. I enthusiastically became a member and have been an avid reader and collector of information from it ever since. I have looked at dozens of sites about track training on the World Wide Web and there’s no question in my mind that the CF website is the most informative and productive source of sprint training available anywhere in the world.

My desire to learn more about Charlie grew and I eagerly sought out SPEED TRAP, purchased a copy off ebay, and it is undoubtedly the most read book in my library of about 60 books which relate to a variety of coaching matters.

I’m fortunate to have trained with two of the great pro-running coaches of the 20th century in Ferg Speakman & Jim Bradley and learned substantially about coaching sprinters from those gentlemen. Naturally they’ve had a massive influence on how I coach and approach my sport.

However, it says volumes for a man I never had the privilege of training with and only briefly met in January 2007, that I can categorically say that Charlie Francis’s influence is as equally profound as Ferg & Jims’.

The CF website gave us all a great insight into a man who was incredibly generous and devoted to the continued education of track coaches and athletes, regardless of their status, colour, creed or financial situation. In my brief time with him in 2007, I found him fascinating and endearing.

If there was a World Sprint Coaching Hall of Fame, not only would Charlie be in it but he’d also be the only person to be worthy of ‘Legend’ status. AND btw, the Hall of Fame would probably be based in Canada.

It’s a sad day for sprint coaches right around the world, and my sympathies are with his wife Angie and son James and all his many friends, especially a certain Sydney based coach/journalist and dear friend of Charlie’s who I sincerely appreciate called me this morning with the news.

Rest In Peace Charlie, you’ve earned it.


PS: Nice tribute from Mike Hurst. :cool:

Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for the kind words. We really appreciate the time everyone has spent reflecting on a pioneer in our industry. Charlie would be happy to know how you all feel.

Best regards,

I have spoken to Charlie’s wife Ange and will briefly recount what she told me:

"Charlie went into hospital on Sunday to prepare for stem cell therapy. We were very excited about it.

"But before you get the stem cell therapy you have to annihilate the disease with chemotherapy. But when you do that, you’re suspect to infection.

"That’s what got the better of Charlie. It was literally within hours.

"James and I were by his side. He was totally lucid. He was tired, bedridden but he had been doing well.

"I was crying. He said, ‘don’t cry sweetie: It’s been a good run.’ And it has been.

"It was fast, peaceful, not too much pain.

“He was protecting me right up to the end. He’s done a phenomenal job… he’s the best.”

Ange said James is coping pretty well. “James is doing pretty good. He’s a little trooper, that guy.”

In reference to Charlie and this most remarkable forum, Ange said:
“I do want to keep it alive. I do really want to keep it going. That’s what I’m planning.”

The funeral details will be announced in Toronto tomorrow, but the service will be conducted on Tuesday at Rosedale Presbyterian Church in the Toronto suburb of Rosedale.

I have not stopped crying since I heard the news.

Charlie’s honest and openness has helped shape me as a coach and further make an impact in my athletes lives as well, helping them earn scholarships, professional sports contracts, and even just the varsity team.

Everyday session I have, I always ask myself “What would Charlie do in this situation?” His positive influence in my life, and in the athletic world will never be forgotten. I am forever grateful for the time he spent on this forum answering everyone’s questions, the time put into his philosophy, and personally the time he spent with me on my visits to Toronto. Like many, he will live inside each of us because of his efforts in helping others.

KK thanks for the post and update

Wow… can’t believe it. Speed trap was the first book I had ever read about sprinting… and the CF training system the second. He has taught the world of track and field so much… still can’t believe this is true as I too thought initially it was a twisted joke. Prayers to Charlie, his family and friends.

Charlie the man.
People have asked me what was Charlie like? To me he seemed down to earth and pretty comfortable with his lot. He entertained with anecdotes and insights. No question was dodged. There was no false modesty, bragging or PR speak in his delivery, it was a matter of simply presenting things as they are.[/QUOTE]

John - a very good description of how I learned to know Charlie on the Forum!

I was SO sad to hear the news. Charlie was my icon as a coach - I think he never enjoyed the acknowledgement which he deserved. I have enjoyed my contact with him - on the forum - and will treasure the DVD’s that I have.

Thinking of and praying for you, Angie and James.

Charlie looking sharp:

Not sure if this one has been posted yet, but quite an informative & balanced tribute to Charlie.

Francis was more than just a coach
13 May 2010

They went through hell and heaven together.

But in the end, the bond between Ben Johnson and Charlie Francis, was never completely broken.

And the love Johnson felt for his former coach never ceased.

“I will always have a lot of love for Charlie,” an emotional Johnson told the Toronto Sun. “I never stopped being Charlie’s friend. Charlie and I were always friends, never mind what happened in the past.

“I’m very sad.”

Francis died on Thursday after a five-year battle with cancer. He was 61.

Perhaps Canadian track and field guru Cecil Smith said it best in describing Francis.

“I think you’d be a hypocrite if you only thought of Charlie in one way,” said Smith.

Completely true.

To some, Francis will be remembered as one of the top minds in track. To most of his athletes, he was more than a coach. He was a friend and mentor.

But, of course, the unfortunate side to Francis’ legacy was his decision, those many years ago, to put the best of his flock — Ben Johnson, Angella Issajenko, Mark McKoy, Desai Williams — on performance enhancing drugs. He did it, he said, to level the playing field.

“His knowledge was unquestionable. Unfortunately, like many people of talent, there was a tendency to try to go beyond expectations and in order to do that, one stepped over the mark. And that’s what happened with Charlie,” said Smith. “He did level the playing field, but the way he went about it will forever be a source of controversy.”

Long before Johnson broke the 100 metre world record (9.79 seconds) at the 1988 Seoul Olympics to win the gold medal (which was later taken away after his positive test for the steroid Stanozolol), Francis maintained that the best track and field athletes in the world were using steroids, and getting away with it.

Only years later, was it shown that he was correct.

But for most of his former athletes, including Johnson and his greatest female sprinter, Issajenko, Francis will be remembered more for his compassion and loyalty than for his technical prowess on the track.

“Charlie would have done anything for us,” said Issajenko, who first joined Francis at the Scarborough Optimists Club when she was a teenager running with the boy’s relay team at Parkdale Collegiate. “Charlie would have given you the last shirt off his back, he cared about us so much. I never wanted to leave him, not even after I got a scholarship to Arizona.”

When Issajenko’s youngest daughter, Sophie, was born, Francis become her godfather. Smith, a long time track and field meet director in Ontario, including the Hamilton Indoor Games, witnessed first hand how Francis fought for his athletes.

“If everything wasn’t just perfect for his athletes, he’d let you hear about it,” said Smith. “If a wind gauge was off, or the air conditioning inside wasn’t right, he’d be on you until it was straightened out.”

When the Dubin Inquiry was established in 1989 following Johnson’s positive drug test in Seoul, it was Francis who set the table early in the proceedings by revealing the extent of the use of steroids in international track and field. Johnson and others followed. He was later banned from coaching in Canada as a result of his testimony.

Smith said that Francis warned the world for years that athletes from many of the track and field superpowers were using performance enhancers and was one of the first outsiders to reveal that the East Germans had set up drug labs in ships at Olympics, including the 1976 Montreal Games — though, at the time, his charges were largely ignored. Documents released in 2009 proved that to be the case — officials from the former GDR dumped leftover serum and syringes in the St. Lawrence River following the Montreal Games.

Francis’ assertions that he gave his athletes steroids only to level the playing field were also shot down. Again, years later, it was proven that virtually every sprinter in the 100 metre final in Seoul, used performance enhancing drugs at one time, including American Carl Lewis who was awarded the gold after Johnson’s disqualification.

Francis was born on Oct. 13, 1948 in Toronto and was once one of Canada’s best sprinters, winning the national 100 metre title from 1970 to 1973. He represented Canada at the 1972 Munich Olympics, reaching the second round. His personal best in the 100 was a 10.1, recorded at the Pan Am Games in Vancouver in 1971.

He then went to Stanford University on a track scholarship and after retiring as an athlete, became a coach — guiding his athletes to some 250 Canadian records, 32 world records and won nine Olympic medals.

In later years, Francis became a highly sought after personal trainer, working with clients ranging from businessmen to professional athletes in the NBA, NFL and NHL, including former Maple Leaf forward Tie Domi. who hired Francis to help him become a better all-round athlete.

“He’s an intelligent man and I was quite impressed,” Domi said in 2003 of Francis. “He’s on a different planet than we all are, it’s scary really. I can’t really understand half the words he says, but I’m still using his methods today.”

Francis worked with American sprinters Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones for a time in 2003. It was discovered later that they both had used performance enhancing drugs, though Francis was never linked with their drug use.

He also authored two books on sprinting, Speed Trap and Training for Speed, and operated a popular internet sprint training forum (

Five years ago this past April, Francis was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma, a relatively rare form of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“He fought it very hard,” said his brother Barry Francis on Thursday. “Because of his young son, he wanted to extend his life as long as possible.”

Barry said that Charlie had become a big fan of the Montreal Canadiens as he once worked with Habs star Mike Cammalleri before the Toronto native made it big in professional hockey.

“He was very excited about how well the Canadiens were doing in the playoffs,” said Barry.

Barry said that his brother was at Sunnybrook Hospital for a round of chemotherapy and was expecting to return home sometime this week. A stem cell match had recently been located and Francis was optimistic at the prospect of a successful transplant.

“I spent two hours with him (on Tuesday) and he was alert and really quite with it,” said Barry. “He was very excited about all the hockey playoff games going on.”

Barry said that Charlie was lucid and talking right until his condition took a sudden turn for the worse on Wednesday morning. His family and close friends was notified and were with him when he passed away, including his wife, former national team hurdler, Angie Coon, and their 11-year-old son James.

Johnson was also able to see him on Tuesday morning before he passed.

Funeral arrangements will be handled by the Humphrey Funeral Home — A.W. Miles Chapel in Toronto, with very details to be announced.

My sincere condolences to Angela and James… Thank you for sharing such an amazing man with us for so many years. May God keep and comfort you.

I also thank Charlie and everyone one on this Forum for reshaping my thinking and performance in this wonderful world of sprinting. I will cherish every DVD, book and picture of the man who will continue to live in my sprint paradigm, teaching and performance. Comfort and Peace to every heart impacted by the great Charlie Francis…

I have never met Charlie, I have only ever been a member of his forum.

To me he was a honest man who risked everything because of his honesty.

Charlie Francis I salute you, to his wife Angie and son James, God bless.


Rest in peace Charlie…

I don’t know what to say, my eyes speak better now, but I will add that from the day I started visiting, training took a different toll, on all aspects of sport, and life. It’s not simply a methodology, it’s an art of combining logical philosophies in complex situations… He was so talented in doing it…

Meeting Charlie last spring for a training session was beyond good. He was a man-mentor, projecting the kindest heart and most useful knowledge. He still remains one of the best mentors who passed.

At times like these, we all wish we had done something different; I wish I had gone to Toronto after that session, to train more with him.

We are left with the information and memory. I hold both to my heart, and once again say Thank You.


RIP Mr Francis, you truly where a consummate and prolific Track and Field coach who set the standard, so that many other like minded coaches may follow in your prodigious trailblazing steps.

Your memory will surely permeate and live on through the sands of time, through your innovative, pragmatical, and thought provoking philosophies that will be studied, referenced and applied by many future generations of athletes and coaches to come. I think i can say on behalf of the collective members of this forum, thank you for input and guidance in regards to our own personal and complex journey to beat the clock. God Bless and much love to you and your family.