On Absent friends, Stuart Weir writes about his friends missing from the London Worlds


Stuart Weir is one of my writers, and also, one of my friends. His sense of humor is infectious (well not like a Novovirus). This piece is about his affection for some of the missing athletes from London, most importantly, for Stuart Weir, the Jamaican pocket rocket, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Frasier_ShellyAnnA1-Sopot14.jpgShelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, photo by PhotoRun.net

Absent friends, by Stuart Wier

In my notes of preparation for London 2017, I had a section "Absent friends", listing some of my favorite athletes who would not be at the event:

Dancing Blanka Vlašić -injured

5 time Olympic medallist Veronica Campbell Brown - injured

Red, black and green haired Mercy Cherono - injured

Kirani James - ill

Gelete Burka World fastest 10000 in 2017 - not selected (politics)

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce - pregnant

It is Shelly that I am missing most. With impeccable timing SAFP announced the birth of her son, Zyon D. Pryce, via Facebook on Tuesday morning.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Welcome Zyon D. Pryce, August 7th, 2017!" she said, adding 'To God be the glory, for the things He has done'." That the birth was during the IAF World Championships seemed so appropriate.

SAFP has dominated the 100 metres in World Championships, winning in 2009, 2013 and 2015 - with an odd blip in 2011 when she came fourth. Moscow 2013 was arguably her supreme year when she won the 100, the 200 and brought Jamaica home in the 4 by 100 for a third gold. Her World Championship haul is currently7 gold and 2 silver.

That in 2012 she was only the third woman ever to defend the 100 metres title delighted her. "I don't know much about track history but I am honored to be part of a club like that". Many people believe that had she been fully fit in 2016, she would have made it three out of three.

After her triple world championship year in 2013 (100, 200 and relay), she sought a new challenge in 2014 by having her first ever indoor season and winning the World Indoor 60m title. I saw her run her first ever indoor race in a cold Birmingham, UK, when she assured the media that she was confident of a PR [Think about it]. When she was asked if she had really never run indoors before, she replied: "I am from Jamaica, why would I need to run indoors?"

She grew up in a poor community in inner city Kingston. She also describes her own family background as poor. When speaking at the Christmas lunch at The South Camp Juvenile Correctional and Remand Centre for Girls she referred to her difficult start in life saying, "I suffered from self esteem issues because I didn't have the nice clothes and the nice house and had to take the bus. I wanted to fit in and would make up stories just to be accepted, so I can relate to the issues related to poverty".

Athletes sometimes talk about getting their championship face on. In Shelly's case it is her championship hair! In Moscow 2013 she had pink hair extensions, what she calls "rocking some colors" and what the London Times correspondent referred to as having a dead parrot in her hair. In 2013 she opened her own hair salon, Chic Hair Ja, which is about "accentuating the natural beauty of women - targeting all women who aspire to have that chic look at an affordable price". In Beijing 2015, her hair was green with added flowers, which was a subject of interest at her winner's press conference. She explained: "I like colors. I like to be bright. It is about being comfortable and enjoying the moment. It helps me take my mind of the pressure of the event".

She also runs her own foundation, The Pocket Rocket Foundation. "When I started high school I got some funding from individuals who saw my potential. So when I won the 2008 Olympics, I decided to do something similar to what happened to me. I had the privilege of going to college and being an athlete. My foundation is geared to helping young athletes to see that they can excel in the classroom as well as on the track". She has said that one of the joys of winning is that the prize money enables her to help others, to give something back. The Foundation supports students at the start of their school term, paying for their books and their school fees, uniforms, meals etc.

Shelly is an athlete who smiles a lot - even when she loses. "I try to get persons to understand why I am always smiling and always laughing at the line - because it is an honor and a privilege to know that when I line up to run God has said he is always with me no matter what. So whether I win or lose it doesn't matter to me because my talent is a gift from him".

Despite her amazing achievements, Shelly-Ann never seems to get the recognition she deserves. Asked if she is recognized when she goes out in Jamaica, she replied "I go to the supermarket and people recognize me" before adding "and they ask me 'How is Usain Bolt!'"

I have to confess that I once behaved badly at the women's sprint relay press conference in 2015. Initially only three of the Jamaicans turned up - Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson were wearing flowers in their hair accompanied by a flowerless Veronica Campbell-Brown. I could not resist asking - to be fair I did not try too hard to resist: "When Veronica went to collect her kit, had they run out of flowers?" Shelly was in hysterics and the Americans were laughing. Veronica, looking mystified asked: "Is that a question or a joke?" When Shelly had regained her composure she said "When she came the garden was empty". More laughter. A great moment.

A great athlete, and a special person. I am delighted for her happy event this week but the Championships are the poorer without her.

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