Whither Shelly?

Jamaica Gleaner - - TUESDAY SPORTS - Email: lau­riefos­ter2012@gmail.com

SHELLY-ANN FRASERPRYCE is with­out ques­tion Ja­maica’s most ac­com­plished fe­male ath­lete. Whether or not it is ac­cepted or ap­pre­ci­ated by those who are em­ployed to struc­ture and steer her ca­reer and, by nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion, her life, she is a model of out­wardly dis­played de­cency, dig­nity and deco­rum. Break­ing into the golden lime­light of Olympic achieve­ment at the 2008 Bei­jing event, amid thoughts of ‘too in­ex­pe­ri­enced’, she thrashed the crit­ics who con­trib­uted to that lim­it­ing sen­ti­ment. Her re­mark­able feats in the en­su­ing years are etched in the pages of sport­ing his­tory, in­dis­putably and in­deli­bly stamp­ing her as the great­est of her gen­der in her time. At the Rio Olympics of 2016, the pint-sized war­rior was faced with a task of world record-break­ing pro­por­tions. Tak­ing a third 100m win was go­ing to be un­prece­dented for any gen­der. That so, as Usain Bolt’s sim­i­lar crown­ing, would still be a day away. How­ever, there ex­isted a ma­jor hur­dle. A lin­ger­ing toe in­jury, which lim­ited her to a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual event, stood in her path to ad­di­tional awe-in­spir­ing achieve­ment. The bronze medal she suc­cess­fully en­gi­neered came with the bur­den­some bag­gage of ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain as she tra­versed the agony of the pre­lim­i­nary rounds. The win­ner and new sprint queen was her MVP team­mate, the new girl on the Ja­maican fron­tier, Elaine Thomp­son. The man­ner in which the vis­i­bly hurt­ing Wolmer’s Girls’ School grad­u­ate of­fered pos­trace sup­port to her suc­ces­sor at the top re­vealed an­other char­ac­ter trait. It spoke to an in­ner con­fi­dence in cir­cum­stances where a less-than-wor­thy as­sess­ment of self would have been un­der­stand­able. The ‘Shelly’ on show was down, but clearly, not out. It was tan­ta­mount to a shout of ‘I’ll be back!’ Then came what was de­scribed in a sec­tion of the press as the ‘Shelly Shocker’. Ja­maica’s elite fe­male sprinter was part­ing com­pany with the MVP Track Club. It was the coach­ing and tech­ni­cal guid­ance venue that she had graced for her en­tire pro­fes­sional ca­reer, last­ing in the vicin­ity of nine years.


Sift­ing the re­sponses, in­ad­e­quate and un­ac­cept­able han­dling of her toe in­jury by the club’s man­age­ment team ap­peared as the most likely cause.

Fos­ter’s Fair­play has com­mented on the like­li­hood of a re­verse move.

Was it con­ceiv­able that the MVP could stom­ach what would be a body blow to its well-es­tab­lished mantra?

Af­ter all, has there ever been a case where an ath­lete tak­ing or be­ing shown the exit door has been al­lowed a 180-de­gree turn?

The stage for an ame­lio­ra­tion of sorts was set in a tele­vi­sion pro­gramme cov­er­ing the Rio Olympics. The MVP Pres­i­dent, Bruce James, who dis­plays a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in Fraser-Pryce, was in­vited by fel­low pan­el­lists to ad­dress the then jus­tan­nounced cleav­age in the club’s ranks.

With the ac­tual record­ing of his re­sponse un­avail­able, in­fer­ence can still be ad­duced or at least at­tempted. The highly re­spected track and field an­a­lyst was plunged into a mode which sug­gested ‘no sep­a­ra­tion can be con­firmed with­out my in­put’. These are the words of Fos­ter’s Fair­play and not the man him­self.

As a mat­ter of fact, the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of his man­ner in­cluded a ‘wait un­til I speak to her and I will put the mat­ter in true per­spec­tive’.

For this colum­nist to cite him as say­ing, in a sum­ma­tion of his ex­pressed thoughts, ‘I ex­er­cise sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence over her de­ci­sions’, which, to em­pha­sise, he did not, it would merely be a mis­quote and not a mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of his per­ceived po­si­tion.

His over­all at­ti­tude in­di­cated sur­prise on hear­ing the news of the in­tended de­par­ture of the sprint­ing em­press, fol­lowed by pa­ter­nal con­cern, and to cap it all, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll fix it’.

With all that ‘in charge of things’ dis­play, it was not a shock when news fil­tered across the sport­ing land­scape that the ath­lete had lit the prover­bial can­dle and was singing her way home.

Fos­ter’s Fair­play has tried to con­firm with James. What came back was a lit­tle more than noth­ing. The level of se­crecy sur­round­ing her present con­di­tion af­ter surgery and a time frame to re­sume prepa­ra­tion for the up­com­ing sea­son was alarm­ing.

It was cer­tainly not what the lovers of the sport and Fraser-Pryce her­self de­served for their ca­reer­long ado­ra­tion and sup­port.

The MVP must do bet­ter.


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