World Championships 2013: Pocket Rocket Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce follows in Usain Bolt’s slipstream
Monday 12 August 2013
At just 5ft tall in her running spikes, in one respect at least Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is always looking up to the 6ft 5in Usain Bolt.
In terms of global profile, she is perpetually eclipsed by the Lightning Bolt too. On home ground in Jamaica, though, “the Pocket Rocket”, as she is known, is just as big a deal as the world’s fastest man.
Like Bolt, Fraser-Pryce secured a second successive Olympic 100m crown at London 2012. Twelve months on, just like the clowning prince of the men’s sprint game, the ever-smiling ray of Caribbean sunshine has backed that up with World Championship gold.
There was none of the Boltesque larking for the television cameras on the start-line when Fraser-Pryce lined up for her final last night – just that endearing megawatt beam and a bob of the distinctive half-pink hair from the woman who has just launched a hair extension business back home in Kingston, Chic Hair Ja. Then came the blast from the blocks that took the double-barrelled Jamaican to gold.
A hair-raising blast it was too. Fraser-Pryce was clear before her nominal rivals could even think of responding. She kept her foot on the gas all the way, crossing the line in 10.71sec with room to spare. Lots of room.
Her winning margin over Murielle Ahouré of the Ivory Coast was 0.22sec – a veritable street in sprinting terms. The gap between Bolt and Justin Gatlin in the men’s final on Sunday had been a relatively slender 0.08sec.
“I never feel I’m living in anybody’s shadow,” Fraser-Pryce replied, when asked about following another Lightning Bolt performance. “I never feel that, ‘Oh, I deserve this amount of attention.’ No I’m fine.”
Fraser-Pryce has long had a keen sense of perspective. She was raised in the Kingston ghetto of Waterhouse, amid gangstas, guns and abject poverty. Her mother Maxine, a single parent, worked as a street vendor, earning her family barely enough for an evening meal.
When Fraser-Pryce started running, at the age of 10, she did so with her bare feet. He mother could not afford her the luxury of a pair of running shoes. Her family did not escape the ghetto violence. A cousin was shot dead a few streets away from her modest shack of a house.
She does have the small matter of a failed drugs test on her CV, it should be recorded – though not for a performance-enhancing substance. A painkiller she used to ease toothache while competing in Shanghai in 2010 contained Oxycodone, a banned narcotic. She was given a six-month suspension.
Yes, in the women’s sprint world, as well as the men’s, there is one particular shadow that there is no getting away from.
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