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KOKOnista Of The Day: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce Is Probably The Greatest Sprinter Of The Modern Time

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Shelly-Ann Fraser was born to Orane Fraser and Maxine Simpson in the inner city community of Waterhouse, in Kingston.

She was raised with her two brothers by her mother, a former athlete who worked as a street vendor. A gifted sprinter from a very young age, she started running barefoot in primary school.Throughout her time at the Wolmer’s High School for Girls, she was uncertain about pursuing a career in track and field.

However, she was active on the youth athletics scene, competing in the famous Inter-Secondary Schools Boys and Girls Championships (known locally as “Champs”), and winning bronze in the 100 m at age 16. In 2002, she ran 25.35 s to win the 200 m title at the Jamaican Under-18 Championships, and later that year helped the Jamaican junior team win 4 × 100 m relay gold at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships, held in Bridgetown, Barbados. At the 2005 CARIFTA Games in Trinidad and Tobago, she won bronze in the 100 m in 11.73 s, and earned a gold medal as part of the 4 × 100 m relay team.

Fraser-Pryce celebrates after winning the 100 m at the 2008 World Athletics Final.

In 2006, Fraser-Pryce started attending the University of Technology, Jamaica, where she met Stephen Francis. At the time, Francis was the head coach at the MVP (Maximising Velocity and Power) Track Club, and had guided the career of former 100 m world record holder Asafa Powell. Despite encouragement from peers and coaches, Fraser-Pryce was unfocused as a young athlete. She admitted to being lazy, always late for training, and would not complete her workouts for fear that she would become too muscular.

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Fraser-Pryce began to achieve success on the senior national and international stages in 2007. At age 20, she was fifth in the 100 m at the Jamaican National Senior Championships in June, setting a new personal best of 11.31 s. Although a fifth-place finish meant that she was ineligible to compete in the 100 m event at the 2007 Osaka World Championships, she was selected as a reserve for Jamaica’s 4 × 100 m relay team. Hoping to gain experience at an international level, she made her debut on the European athletics circuit in July and saw promising results.She first ran a wind-assisted 11.39 s for second place at the Budapest Iharos Memorial, followed by 11.44 s to win the Meeting Terra Sarda in Italy. In August, she again won the 100 m at the Stockholm DN-Galan, posting 11.57 s.

At the World Championships in September, Fraser-Pryce ran only in the relay heats, helping her team place second. 

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She eventually earned a silver medal when the Jamaican team finished behind the United States in the 4 × 100 m relay final. Despite her initial anxiety towards competing at the World Championships, Fraser-Pryce credited her experience in Osaka for raising her confidence, changing her attitude towards athletics and making her more focused.

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Fraser-Pryce achieved worldwide success during the late 2000s to the 2020s, helping to elevate Jamaican athletics on the international scene. In the 100 m, her signature event, she is a two-time Olympic gold medallist and a five-time world champion. In the 200 m, she has won an Olympic silver medal and World Championship gold.

An eight-time Olympic medallist, she rose to prominence at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, becoming the first Caribbean woman to win gold in the 100 m. At the 2012 London Olympics, she became the third woman in history to defend an Olympic 100 m title. After injury affected her season, she won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Thirteen years after her first Olympic win, she won a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, becoming the first athlete to medal in the 100 m at four consecutive Olympic Games.

At the World Athletics Championships, Fraser-Pryce is one of the most decorated athletes in history, winning ten gold and two silver medals. She is the only person to win five world titles in the 100 m—in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2019, and 2022. Her win in 2019 made her the first mother in 24 years to claim a global 100 m title, while her win in 2022 at the age of 35 made her the oldest sprinter ever to become world champion. In 2013, she became the first woman to sweep the 100 m, 200 m and 4 × 100 m at a single World Championship, and was voted the IAAF World Athlete of the Year. She added the 60 m indoor title in 2014, becoming the first ever female athlete to hold world titles in all four sprint events at the same time.

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A dominant force in women’s sprinting, Fraser-Pryce has won more global 100 m titles than any other sprinter in history. Nicknamed the “Pocket Rocket” for her petite stature and explosive block starts, her personal best of 10.60 seconds makes her the third fastest woman ever and the fastest mother of all time. World Athletics hailed her as “the greatest female sprinter of her generation.” In 2019, she was included on the BBC’s list of 100 inspiring and influential women in the world.

Photo Credit: Getty

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