The Pocket Rocket
Since her first Olympic gold medal over 100m in Beijing in 2008, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has been racking up victories and making Jamaican history in the process. She went on to defend her title at London 2012 and earned a bronze at Rio 2016 as well as a 4x100m relay silver.
Pocket rocketExhibiting outstanding form on the track at high school and university in the Jamaican capital, Kingston, Shelly-Ann Fraser rose to prominence thanks to her excellent results at junior level, which earned her the nickname “Pocket Rocket”, a reference to her diminutive height (1.60m) and her explosive pace.
In 2002, aged 16, she enjoyed success with the Jamaican 4x100m relay team at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships, and by 2004, she had already posted an eye-catching time of 11.73 seconds in the 100m. Kicking off her senior career with the MVP Track & Field club in Kingston, where she rubbed shoulders with former men’s 100m world record holder Asafa Powell, Fraser achieved her first international podium during the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka (JPN), where she landed a silver medal with the 4x100m relay team, although she did not compete in the final.
Beijing breakthroughAt the age of 21, the fast-improving Jamaican performed brilliantly at her country’s national trials to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games. In front of 91,000 fans in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium, she soared through her heats and semi-final, comfortably earning a berth in the final on 17 August. Starting in lane 3, she burst out of the blocks, pulling away from the pack at the halfway point to finish in 10.78 seconds and become the first Jamaican woman to claim the Olympic 100m title.
It was a memorable day for the Caribbean country, as fellow Jamaicans Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart crossed the line behind Fraser in exactly the same time (10.98) to take joint silver and complete a historic one-two-three. However, there was subsequent disappointment for Fraser and her compatriots in the 4x100m relay final when a dropped baton cost them what looked a certain medal.
Double medallist in LondonDespite having her appendix removed in April 2009, Fraser was crowned world 100m champion in Berlin (GER) with a fantastic time of 10.73, exactly one year to the day after bagging Olympic gold. To cap off a hugely successful competition, she also picked up a gold medal in the 4x100m relay, alongside Simone Facey, Allen Bailey and Kerron Stewart.
Shortly after marrying long-term boyfriend Jason Pryce in 2011, Fraser-Pryce qualified for London 2012 in some style, clocking a sensational time of 10.70, which remains the best performance by a female 100m athlete since 2012.
On 4 August in London’s Olympic Stadium, the diminutive sprinter was all smiles as she settled down into her blocks in lane 7. Leading from start to finish, she held off a strong challenge from Carmelita Jeter (USA) to triumph in 10.75 and become only the third woman – after American runners Wyomia Tyus (1964 and 1968) and Gail Devers (1992 and 1996) – to retain the 100m Olympic title. A few days later, Fraser-Pryce added two Olympic silver medals to her CV, finishing behind Allison Felix in the 200m and then as part of the Jamaican quartet which lost out to the USA in the 4x100m.
Joy in MoscowAt the 2013 Worlds in Moscow, superstar sprinter Usain Bolt made headlines around the world by winning three gold medals. His female compatriot Fraser-Pryce then matched that feat, cruising home in the 100m in 10.71, recording a breakthrough 200m victory in 22.17, and concluding with a 4x100m relay success in 41.29. Up to that point, no female athlete had collected three sprint titles at the same World Championships.
In January 2014, Fraser-Pryce continued to demonstrate excellent form at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot (POL), where in her debut over 60m she stormed to victory with an impressive time of 6.98.
Hard won success in RioFraser-Pryce went into the 2016 season aiming to overcome the handicap of a toe injury and achieve the unprecedented feat of winning a third consecutive Olympic athletics title. “I’m preparing for war. And when it’s all over I will win,” she declared in the run-up to the Games. At the Jamaican Olympic trials she chose to compete only in the 100m, though found herself bettered by Elaine Thompson in the final.
On 13 August in women’s 100m final the Rio Olympic Stadium it was once again Thompson who crossed the line first, in a time of 10.71. She was followed by American Tori Bowie who won silver in 10.83 seconds, just three hundredths of a second ahead of Fraser-Pryce in the bronze medal position.
While she had failed to defend her title, Frasyer-Pryce was delighted with her medal. “First of all, I didn’t think I’d be here at these championships, it was a tough journey,” she said afterwards of her preparation for Rio. “I just wanted a chance to defend my title. And it was really, really hard. I know what I’ve been through and I’m happy and I thank God to have had the chance to run and earn this medal.”
Six days later, Fraser-Pryce was back on the track to run the last leg for the Jamaican 4x100m relay team. Team USA had already built a commanding lead by the time she took charge of the baton, and they went on to win gold in 41.01, but the “pocket rocket” managed to hold off the challenge of Great Britain’s Daryll Neita to win silver, taking her Olympic medal tally to six: two gold, three silver and one bronze.