DOHA, Qatar – “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them; a desire, a dream, a vision. They have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
That’s a quote from the late great heavyweight boxer, Muhammad Ali.
And it is a quote that easily characterizes Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the newly minted 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships women’s 100m gold medallist.
Born with God-given speed in her legs, Shelly-Ann knew that would not be enough to propel her to the very top, so she developed a desire, had a dream and a vision and she has not deviated from those core principles.
And the result thus far is that the now 32-year-old is arguably Jamaica’s greatest-ever woman sprinter, and possibly the greatest of all time.
Sunday’s victory in 10.71 seconds was her fourth 100m gold medal at the IAAF World Athletics Championships to go with a 200m gold and multiple 4x100m relay medals.
Added to that she has been back-to-back Olympic Games (Beijing, China in 2008, and London, England in 2012) 100m gold medallist. An injured toe thwarted her preparation and limited her to a bronze medal when she attempted a three-peat at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016.
Hailing from the tough Waterhouse inner-city community in Kingston, the Wolmer’s High School for Girls alumna was forced to develop a tough outer skin and desire like no other from early on.
When she finished third at the 2008 National Championships and made the team for the Olympics, Jamaica’s darling at the time, Veronica Campbell Brown, finished behind her in fourth place and there were many calling for then more experienced and battle-hardened Campbell-Brown to be included in the team ahead of the then 21-year-old.
But like water off a duck’s back, Shelly-Ann kept her focus and the track and field authorities stuck with the selection policy and Shelly-Ann retained her place—and the rest is history as she duly romped home to register her first senior global gold medal title.
And, for good measure, she repeated the feat at the London Games four years later. Had it not been for a nagging and debilitating tie injury in the 2016 season, no one would dare bet against her making it three wins in a row, although her training partner Elaine Thompson copped gold.
She was forced to take a maternity break to deliver son Zyon and came back to the track in 2018.
And though her long journey back has had a golden ending, she has noted that it was a tough, sometimes lonely road back, which required her to pull on all her strength, dedication and perseverance.
“It is harder coming back,” she said.
“When I was having my son, I was trying to have him naturally (she was in labor for 13 hours); it was not happening.
“I was scared of having a C-section.
“I was off 10 weeks, unable to lift weights on my back so doing a lot of hand weights; it was a long journey physically,” she told the international media AFP.
She had her doubts in the immediate aftermath of Zyon’s birth.
“Mentally it was even harder because you are 30, you are worried about coming back and not being really at the same level,” she said.
Many advised her to retire graciously because she had done it all and had reached to the very top, but she was determined to prove them wrong.
Even with the lingering doubts, she believed she could climb that metaphorical mountain one more time.
Now even American sprinting great Michael Johnson has labeled her the greatest female sprinter of all time, and the little dynamo was pleased to have her son witness her latest victory, even if he’s unable to fully understand the magnitude of his mother’s achievement.
“It is one of those moments that I am very proud of,” she said.
“For athletics and women, it is hard to come back to sprinting.
“I remember in 2018 when I was getting back I did not have enough power coming out of the blocks and over the first 30 meters.
“It stressed me out and took a lot of work to put it right.”
So now she says that her victory on Sunday was for all mothers.
“For Zyon to witness tonight is a moment to cherish. He reminded me of how hard I had to fight, especially as many see that for a woman a baby should not be till you are finished.
“But I had other plans.”
And now she is happy to have proven the doubters wrong.
“I just did not listen. I am one of those people who [don’t] read too much. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I know how I felt and I was not ready to go.
“I had something left to do, so I focused on the dream and set my sights on the target.”
How Shelly-Ann annihilated the field on Sunday and with the Toyko, Japan Olympics Games less than a year away, there is a feeling that there is more to come from the island nation’s beloved ‘Pocket Rocket’ now ‘Mommy Rocket’, who continues to inspire the world.
And while this is a moment for Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, one can’t help to admire the efforts of Tajay Gayle, who landed gold in the men’s long jump with a new national record 8.69 meters, as well as Fedrick Dacres, who captured silver in the men’s discus, and the mixed 4x400m relay team comprising Nathon Allen, Tiffany James, Roneisha McGregor and Javon Francis, who also won silver in the inaugural running of this event.
Gayle, an unheralded athlete, is conditioned at MVP under the guidance of Stephen Francis. It was Jamaica’s first senior global gold medal and the first since James Beckford landed the second of his two silver medals at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in 2003. Beckford held the record of 8.62 meters.