Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is a beacon of hope and a paragon of virtue on and off the track. Her attaining The International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) Female World Athlete of the Year award for 2013 is testament to just how much hard work pays off. She became the first Caribbean woman to win 100m Olympic gold in Beijing, 2008, at age 21. Then came the 2009 World Championships in Berlin where she took gold in the 100m and 4 x 100m relay.
The path was not always the smoothest. The 2011 World Championships in Daegu saw her stumble to 4th in the 100m and 2nd in the 4 x 100m relay, but this served only as a motivational precursor for the best performances of her career. In London 2012, she successfully defended her 100m title, becoming the third woman to win two consecutive 100m events at the Olympics, while pocketing silver in the 200m and 4 x 100m. Not a bad haul. She starred at the World Championships in Moscow, becoming the first female sprinter to win gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m in a single championship.
Her humble upbringing in Waterhouse, St. Andrew makes her modest and passionate about bettering the world. As UNICEF Jamaica’s first national Goodwill Ambassador, since 2010, Fraser-Pryce has been making lecture circuits a forum to inspire youngsters to rise above all obstacles. Her degree in Child and Adolescent Development from the University of Technology is what she plans to use to promote youth development and empowerment when her days of racing out the blocks after the starter’s pistol come to an end.
“This is something that I really love. It is a passion for me to have young people hear my story, because a lot of them would see us on TV and believe that we just got there overnight. But I need them to understand that I am coming from circumstances just like them and the UNICEF group has afforded me that opportunity to just spread the word the way I can and impact the lives of young people. Especially young people in situations that would make them feel that they should just give up because life is just not worth living. I believe we must do all we can now to add value to their lives and steer them in the right way. I have lived it. I know what it is like. I am a living testimony. I am where I am today because I worked hard and trust in God to guide my life,” she stated.
The 26 year-old’s 10.71-second run to win the gold in Russia last year was a highlight of her IAAF award. After receiving her accolade, she beamed gratitude to God and the support of her family, friends and management. She also took time to acknowledge the other finalists who had been shortlisted saying she felt honoured to have been shortlisted with them and to eventually come out on top. “I’m shocked and excited. It’s something that has been a dream of mine,” said Fraser-Pryce, who became the second Jamaican woman to win the award after Merlene Ottey in 1990.There’s so much splendor and Caribbean pride in seeing her humble aura grace the international stage. Her elegance and resilience balance out so well.
There is no one in Jamaica looking to dope-up intentionally to run faster. What’s happening is athletes not checking the supplements they use. No one is intentionally cheating.
However, last year was rocky for her compatriots on the track scene. While Trinidad and Tobago battled through their issues on drug testing with Kelly-Ann Baptiste and Semoy Hackett, the microscope was bigger and the spotlight, much larger, on Jamaica. A spate of positive tests 2013 rocked the nation to the core – which included the former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell, the Olympic 4 x 100m silver medalist Sherone Simpson and the sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown. Fraser-Pryce insisted that the criticism of Jamaica’s athletes was unfair. She even contemplated withdrawing from international competition because Jamaica’s Athletics Administrative Authority was not doing enough to defend athletes from “hurtful” accusations, or providing enough support for up-and-coming runners. According to the sprinter, “You listen to accusations about Jamaica’s athletes and there is no one to get up, take the mic and say, ‘What you are saying is a lie’. They are just sitting back enjoying the benefits and fruits of our labour but when it’s time to actually be doing their jobs they are not doing it. If it comes down to not competing to make sure that things are up to scratch when it comes to facilities and different things in Jamaica then I would. We believe that we deserve not to have our names tarnished. There is no one in Jamaica looking to dope up intentionally to run faster. What’s happening is athletes not checking the supplements that they use. No one is intentionally cheating.”
As she looks to 2014, she puts behind a year that has been draped with immense success yet turbulence. If it’s one thing that’s certain is that she will persevere and continue to set the golden standard for female athletes in the realm of track-and-field.