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Exhibiting outstanding form on the track at high school and university in Kingston (JAM), Shelly-Ann Fraser rose to prominence via 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 by joining the MVP Track & Field club in Kingston, where she rubbed shoulders with one-time men’s 100m world record holder Asafa Powell, Fraser achieved her first international podium finish 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.
At 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 and become the first Jamaican woman to claim the Olympic 100m title.
It was an excellent day all round for the Caribbean island, as Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart crossed the line behind Fraser in exactly the same time (10.98) to both take silver and complete a historic one-two-three. There was subsequent disappointment for the Jamaicans in the 4x100m relay final when a dropped baton cost them what looked a certain medal.
Despite 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.
After marrying long-term boyfriend Jason Pryce in 2011, Fraser-Pryce qualified for the London Games in 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 behind the United States relay team in the 4x100m.
At the 2013 Worlds in Moscow, superstar sprinter Usain Bolt (JAM) made headlines around the world, winning three gold medals. His female compatriot achieved an identical 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). Making her debut at the event, she prevailed in the 60m with a strong time of 6.98.
In 2013 in Kingston, Fraser-Pryce launched the Pocket Rocket Foundation, which aims to “develop Jamaica through the power of sports and education”, creating lasting change in the lives of young athletes who may well, one day, emulate her own remarkable accomplishments.