From pau­per to sprint queen

Fraser-pryce adds 200 gold to 100m ti­tle

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SUNDAY SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Moscow

Shelly- Ann Fraser- Pryce may not be a crowd pleaser or have the records of fel­low sprint cham­pion Usain Bolt but her bat­tle to rise out of poverty to be­come queen of women’s sprint­ing says a lot about a cham­pion’s drive and men­tal strength.

The 26- year- old with a smile al­most as wide as her win­ning mar­gins stamped her mark as one of the great­est sprint­ers of all time on Fri­day when in Moscow she be­came only the third woman to com­plete the 100/ 200 me­ters world dou­ble.

How­ever, aside from sport­ing partly-dyed pink hair to go with her pink nail var­nish and pink run­ning shoes, and be­ing a class above her ri­vals on the track, to many her diminu­tive size (she stands just 1.52m tall) re­flects her pro­file off the track — al­most in­vis­i­ble.

That, though, is part of her per­sonal magic and charm, do­ing end­less char­ity work — she is a UNICEF ambassador among other things — es­pe­cially for chil­dren but al­ways with the min­i­mum of fuss, con­tent to lend her name to what she con­sid­ers wor­thy causes.

“If you un­der­stand Shelly, she’s a be­hind-the-scenes per­son,” her lo­cal priest, Win­ston Jack­son, told Ja­maican news­pa­per The Gleaner last year.

“If she’s go­ing to help some­body, she will do it in pri­vate. She doesn’t like all the ex­cite­ment.”

Her work with chil­dren has a per­sonal side to it af­ter a child­hood that saw her grow up in a vi­o­lent ghetto in Kingston — a cousin was a vic­tim of it — but where she re­fused to lie down and ac­cept her lot was to just sur­vive.

Much of this stee­li­ness was in­fused into her psy­che by her mother, Max­ine — who brought her and her two broth­ers up on her own, like so many sin­gle par­ents did in the Water­house neigh­bor­hood — with the dik­tat be­ing: ‘you have a tal­ent go and use it.’

“Now it’s Ja­maican women and chil­dren who are my in­spi­ra­tion,” she told the Daily Tele­graph in 2009 shortly af­ter she had added world 100m gold to the Olympic ti­tle from Bei­jing.

“I see a lot of things they go through as sin­gle par­ents at 16 – hav­ing a child which keeps them stay­ing in the same eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion as their par­ents. They never leave.

“So I try to be an ex­am­ple for them, that they can still suc­ceed. I can try to talk to them; fin­ish high school, don’t get preg­nant at a young age, don’t be hang­ing out on the streets. Just do your school­work, fo­cus on a sport if you’re good at it, do what I did.”

Fraser-Pryce, who mar­ried her long-time boyfriend Ja­son Pryce in 2011, will for­ever be in­debted to her mother, and she was at least able to re­pay part of what she owed her with the rel­a­tive riches track suc­cess has brought her.

For money was not even an is­sue in the Fraser house­hold — in­deed house­hold would be a grand term to de­scribe the shack they grew up in — as there was of­ten none, even for food, if Max­ine didn’t have a suc­cess­ful day sell­ing goods on the street.

“She was strict with us and worked hard as a street ven­dor to make sure we went to a good school,” Fraser-Pryce told the Daily Tele­graph.

“It was hard for her. Some­times, we didn’t have enough to eat. I’d go to school with no lunch money and my school would have to pro­vide it.

“My mom wouldn’t let me go out­side. Com­ing back from school, the gang men some­times would say things but I would walk by, never an­swer and my mom would go tell them leave me alone.”

Such a tough up­bring­ing forged a spirit in Fraser-Pryce that has borne fruit in stun­ning fash­ion but it took her a while to re­al­ize how she could make her life dif­fer­ent to those of her mother and many oth­ers.

“I used to think I wasn’t good enough to go to the Olympics, un­til I re­al­ized that only I can be in charge of me. That was when I started to fo­cus,” she said.


Ja­maica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (bot­tom) cel­e­brates with Nige­ria’s Bless­ing Ok­ag­bare af­ter win­ning the women’s 200m fi­nal on Fri­day.

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