Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce: The race to make Paris Olympics in one piece 

When sprinting legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce used her wealth of experience to pass through the baton to Sashalee Forbes while running the second leg of the 4x100m at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, the Jamaican picked up an injury on her right leg with around 15m to go. It brought a bit of trepidation amongst her fans, who felt she had copped another long-term injury. It was later revealed she had aggravated the knee she recovered from prior to going into the world championships. 

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sha’Carri Richardson, Shericka Jackson, 100m medalists, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics

Now, ahead of her last Olympic games in Paris next year, there are indications that her body will begin to get crocked up. By no means does this make her less of a legend, but rather, it’s an indication of how time eventually catches up with everyone. And Fraser-Pryce is not left out. The Jamaican sprint sensation has already etched her name in the annals of Olympic history, but as she embarks on her next major conquest, she carries not just a legacy but a dream. A dream of capturing her third individual Olympic gold in the women’s 100m, a feat that would no doubt make her the undisputed greatest female sprinter. 

Yet, this quest is not without its challenges. Fraser-Pryce, who will be 37 when she competes in Paris, faces an uphill battle after a season marred by injuries. But if there’s one thing that history has taught us, it’s that you should never count out the “Pocket Rocket.”

Shericka Jaskson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 200 meters, photo by Kevin Morris

Fraser-Pryce first burst onto the global scene at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when she claimed her maiden Olympic gold in the 100 meters. At just 21, she became not only the first Jamaican woman to win the event but also one of the youngest sprinters to capture Olympic gold. This victory marked the beginning of a remarkable journey that would see her ascend to the pinnacle of sprinting.

In the years that followed, Fraser-Pryce’s career was studded with accolades and records. She became the first woman to win Olympic gold in the 100m in consecutive Games, defending her title in London 2012. Her explosive starts and powerful strides left a trail of vanquished opponents and awestruck fans. Despite all her achievements, it wasn’t until 2022 that she got the full worth of what has been a glowing career, culminating in the Laureaus Award Sports Woman of the Year. 

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the five time world champion at the 100 meters. photo by Weltklasse Zurich DL.

But, like every human, the prospect of wanting more will always be there. Fraser-Pryce surely will be licking her lips at the prospect of a third individual Olympic Gold in the 100m is on the horizon. The chance to etch her name alongside legendary sprinters like Usain Bolt, who had achieved the same feat, should be more than a motivation. But the road to Paris 2024 would not be a cakewalk.

In 2023, Fraser-Pryce faced a season marred by injuries. It was a stark reminder of the physical toll that sprinting takes on an athlete’s body, especially as they age. Niggling injuries and setbacks threatened to derail her campaign. The explosive power required to accelerate from the blocks and the relentless drive to maintain top-end speed to the finish line can push even the most accomplished athletes to their limits.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 100 meters, World Athletics Championships
Eugene, Oregon, USA
July15-26, 2022, photo by Kevin Morris

For Fraser-Pryce, the path to Paris was beset with challenges, but it was also marked by a resolute spirit. She understood that injury setbacks were an unfortunate part of an athlete’s journey and had a history of bouncing back stronger. Her unwavering determination and her ability to defy the odds had already earned her the moniker “Mommy Rocket” after she returned to the track following the birth of her son, Zyon, in 2017.

Fraser-Pryce’s injury-laden season in 2023 was a test of her resolve. The Jamaican has only raced nine times this year. Excluding qualifiers, it boils down to five times. That’s the least number of times she has raced in a year since she started running professionally. How much her body is willing to take on leading up to Paris remains to be seen, but there is a huge possibility that she doesn’t run as much as she did leading up to the world championships in Budapest this year. 

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, photo by Diamond League AG

In an era where sprinting is increasingly dominated by younger athletes, Fraser-Pryce’s quest is a testament to the enduring power of experience and the age-defying spirit of determination. At 37, she knows that Paris might be her last Olympic hurrah, and she is determined to make it count. Her body might have a different response to this mindset, but the Jamaican is more than just an athlete; she is an icon, a symbol of what the human spirit can achieve when it refuses to be bound by age or adversity. 

Her journey is a beacon of inspiration, a reminder that age is just a number and that dreams can be realized at any stage of life. In her pursuit of a third Olympic Gold, Fraser-Pryce is not just chasing history; she is creating it. Either she defies age and time, or it catches up to her. 

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the media, May 2022, photo by KIP KEINO CLASSIC

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