Malachi: thanks for my passport - and my life

Behind the 'Instant Briton' headlines is an inspirational story. Simon Turnbull meets a runner to respect

Two weeks and a day after his whirlwind arrival on the British athletics scene, Malachi Davis gets to run in the red, white and blue of the Great Britain team this afternoon. It is sure to be another high-profile, high-pressure occasion for the erstwhile unknown quarter-miler.

When he lines up for the 400m in the Norwich Union International at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, the opposition will just happen to include his former compatriots from the United States. Davis was a US citizen and athlete until FedEx delivered a British passport to his home in Brentwood - a Los Angeles suburb along Sunset Boulevard from Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Bel Air - two days before his appearance at the British Olympic trials in Manchester.

The occasion is sure to stir up more of the hysteria that has surrounded the somewhat bewildered Californian on his maiden, extended, voyage to the land of his Cockney mother: along the lines of the "Malachi Malarkey" and "Instant Brit" headlines, and the steamed-up Radio Five presenter putting it to him that "it was not really fair to get hold of a British passport at the last minute".

Not that Davis is allowing the critical fuss to get to him. He is taking it all in his unruffled stride. As well he might. At 26, the graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, has overcome something far more formid-able than a chorus of disapproval. As he relates: "I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of five. It was two weeks before my sixth birthday. That's when my dad told me."

Davis had been diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma. He was moved from his sickbed in the family home in Sacramento to the cancer ward at the nearby Kaiser Hospital.

"I was too young at the time to realise how serious it was," he continues. "I didn't realise that until I got a lot older. It's a disease that takes a lot of lives. Getting over it is definitely something that I don't take for granted. I'm thankful for everything I've achieved and everything I have - just to have my health. I'm very, very grateful to have my health."

Since the final announcement of the British track-and-field team last Tuesday morning, Davis has an Olympic place to go with his good health. For all the outrage that his belated attempt to gain selection has attracted, mostly from sections of the media, his graduation to Olympian status is above all else a story of inspiration.

As he says: "It means an awful lot to me to get to the Olympic Games, and to a lot of people who supported me. It might even be something for cancer patients out there, people going through the disease right now. I will gladly help others who have the disease. I can tell them that there are people who survive it and go on to lead prosperous lives. I'm proving it.

"I was bedridden for a long time and I can remember being extremely sick. But by the age of nine I was cured. It was completely out of the system. As I've grown up, I've come into contact with people who have cancer and it's been a motivating story for them. That's given me strength and it's given them strength.

"I'm just happy to be here. I'm thrilled to be running, thrilled to have my health. And thrilled that I'm going to the Olympic Games. It's a picture that I've dreamed about."

It's a picture Davis's parents could have hardly dared dream about when they took their son down to the local track and encouraged him to chase the family dog, Sammy, to hasten his recuperation after his long illness. For his mother, to see him run in the red, white and blue of Great Britain will be the realisation of a personal dream. Ava Gordon is a Los Angelean Londoner, born in Lambeth and brought up in Shepherd's Bush.

"She went to the States to go to college," Davis says. "I don't think she saw herself staying that long, but it's now pushing 30 years. She's definitely played a big part in me running here. Without her, I'd still be in the States."

When he left the States on 7 July, Davis only expected to be in Britain for four days, to compete in the trials and then return home. He has stayed on, living and training at UK Athletics' High Performance Centre at Loughborough University, while his selection fate has been resolved - and while sections of the media have whipped up a bigger storm than they ever did when Budge Pountney was picked for the Scottish rugby union team - and subsequently captained it - on the strength that a grandparent born in the Channel Islands qualified him to represent any of the home nations.

The truth was there was no other contender for the third 400m place in the British team for Athens. Davis was the only athlete who had achieved a qualifying time. And if he can regain the form that took him to his 45.52sec clocking in Tucson in May, he could put the British 4 x 400m relay team into contention for a medal in Athens.

His first chance to do so comes this afternoon, when he runs for Britain against the United States. "It'll be interesting," Davis says, with a broad grin. "But when it comes down to it, when you get to the line, everybody's competing against everybody else. It doesn't matter what background you come from."

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans