This is the final piece that Stuart Weir did before his well-deserved vacation. His interview with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce helps put the 2022 season and her career into perspective.
Reports of SAFP’s demise have been exaggerated!
Wasn’t it Mark Twain who said that reports of his death had been somewhat exaggerated? When Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce pulled out of Lausanne with an injury scare, people jumped to conclusions. Either she had suffered a career-threatening injury caused by old age or she had faked the injury to avoid running against Elaine Thompson-Herah. It is hard to know which is the bigger nonsense!
She felt a tight muscle and decided that it would be silly to risk an injury right at the end of the season. She withdrew. A scan revealed nothing serious. She ran in Brussels and lost – further evidence of a terminal decline for the nay-sayers. The reality was that she ran a 10.74, faster than most women sprinters ever achieve in their careers. Shelly told me that evening that she had not executed the race to her satisfaction. To paraphrase her: I didn’t run well so it was only a 10.7. She lost to Shericka Jackson by 1/100th of a second! Not quite a total catastrophe.
The Zurich Diamond League Final started dramatically with a DQ for the third Jamaican in the race, Natasha Morrison. When the race restarted Shelly was out like a rocket – not quite sure if it was a Momma-rocket or a pocket rocket. By halfway, it looked like her only opponent was the clock.
The podium places went to:
1 Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce 10.65
2 Shericka Jackson 10.81
3 Marie-Josée Ta Lou 10.91
Then Darryl Neita (GB) 11.02, followed by three Americans, Aleia Hobbs, Twanisha Terry, and Sha’Carri Richardson
She also ran “badly” in Zurich. Her time was 10.65 when she wanted a 10.5! It was, by the way, into a negative 0.8 wind
Her comments – as always – were interesting: “To be able to end the season with a 10.6 is really special. OK, I did not get the 10.5 but next year is another year. In Lausanne, I had an injury scare and it was kinda hard to get back into the groove. So I was glad I was able to come back and finish strong. It is easy to run away – to fold your tail and run away when things are not working”.
I tried to press her why she was running so fast at this stage in her career: “I think self-belief is key because I have always believed I could run 10.6 and that I could run 10.5. With that self-belief as long as I continue to work, it was all there. And I am going to continue to work towards a 10.5 until the wheels fall off!”
I have been watching SAFP since 2008. I have seen her in four Olympics and in five World Championships. I saw her at 10.60. This season I have spoken to her in Oregon, Birmingham, Brussels, and Zurich. What struck me is two, arguably contradictory, traits. She is highly motivated yet seems to be running with freedom, freedom perhaps based on knowing that she has already won everything it is possible to win. I remember a year or two back saying to her that she needed to equal Veronica Campbell-Brown’s five Olympics, she dismissed the idea saying that she would probably finish at Oregon. Now she is talking about Paris 2024. I think she realizes that she is in the form of her life and that her God-given talent is to be enjoyed, not abandoned.
Having run nine times in the 10.6es including that 10.60 in Lausanne last year, she now believes that a 10.5 is within reach. I think she believes that had she had Lausanne, Brussels, and Zurich with no injury issues, the record time could have come. Even in Zurich, if you run 10.65 into a 0.8 wind, what would have been the time adjustment for a favorable wind?
She loves being a Mom. She is passionate about using her platform and her Foundation to do good in Jamaica and beyond. She has business interests. But for the moment, continuing to run fast is a priority.