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Since becoming the first Caribbean woman to win Olympic 100m gold at Beijing 2008, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce hasn’t looked back. After successfully defending her title at London 2012 in Rio she is aiming to become the first woman to win the event three times in a row.
Born in the Jamaican capital of Kingston on 27 December 1986, Shelly-Ann Fraser shone on the local school and college sprinting scene. On her inexorable rise to the top, the explosive sprinter, who stands 1.60m tall, earned herself the nickname “Pocket Rocket”, and lived up to the name in winning 4x100m gold as a 16-year-old at the 2002 Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships.
After clocking 11.73 in the 100m in 2004, she embarked on her senior career with Kingston’s MVP Track & Field Club. Fraser won her first major medal at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, running in the heats though not the final as Jamaica took silver in the 4x100m.
The up-and-coming Jamaican qualified in spectacular style for Beijing 2008, and proved she belonged on the biggest stage of all by winning all her heats in the Chinese capital to cruise into the final. It was then that she took her career on to the next level, turning in a commanding performance in front of a packed house at the Bird’s Nest to win gold in a time of 10.78.
In so doing, she became Jamaica and the Caribbean’s first ever Olympic women’s 100m champion, with compatriots Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart completing an amazing day for the island nation by sharing silver behind her. There was disappointment for the Jamaican sprint queens in the 4x100m final, however, with a dropped baton costing them another medal.
After taking time out to have her appendix removed in April 2009, the irrepressible Fraser bounced back to win the world 100m in Berlin, a year to the day after her Beijing triumph. In stopping the clock at 10.73, she ran what was then the third-fastest time in history, a feat she followed up by joining forces with Simone Facey, Allen Bailey and Stewart to win the 4x100m title.
After marrying her long-term partner Jason Pryce in 2011, the Jamaican sprint star changed surname to Fraser-Pryce. One thing that did not change, however, were her performances, with a lightning-fast run of 10.70 booking her a place at London 2012.
Lining up in Lane 7 in her second Olympic final, Fraser-Pryce led from start to finish, holding off the challenge of the USA’s Carmelita Jeter, to win in a time 10.75 and become only the third woman after Wyomia Tyus and Gail Devers to retain the Olympic women’s 100m title. Before taking her leave of the British capital, she pocketed silvers in the 200m (behind Allyson Felix of the USA) and the 4x100m.
Fraser-Pryce’s next tour de force came at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow, where she showed once again that there is a lot more to Jamaican sprinting than Usain Bolt. Matching her fellow countryman’s clean sweep, Fraser-Pryce won 100m gold in 10.71, scored her maiden world 200m title in 22.17, and then anchored Jamaica to victory in the 4x100m, becoming the first woman to win all three sprint titles at the same world championships.
Appearing at her first world indoor championships in Sopot (POL) the following January, she ran 6.98 to land another gold medal. Then, at the 2015 Worlds in Beijing, the Jamaican sprint queen won 100m gold for the third time running, going on to complete another world championship title hat-trick in partnering Veronica Campbell-Brown, Natasha Morrison and Elaine Thompson to victory in the 4x100m.
When she is not dominating the global sprinting scene, Fraser-Pryce is helping others. In 2013, she set up the Pocket Rocket Foundation in Kingston, with the aim of “developing Jamaica through the power of sports and education.”
Though a toe injury has disrupted her preparations for Rio 2016, where she will bid for an unprecedented third consecutive Olympic 100m gold, she served notice of her form and fitness in running 11.09 at the Racers Grand Prix in Kingston in June.
Contemplating her prospects in Rio, Fraser-Pryce said: “I’m getting ready to go to war. And when it’s over, I’ll be victorious.”