Jamaica’s queen of the track has her crown back again. And, even at the grand age of 35, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce somehow keeps finding fresh ways to shatter records and defy the laws of sporting gravity.
Gold here in Eugene was delivered in classic Fraser-Pryce style. She exploded out the blocks, picked up far faster than her rivals, and put the race to bed long before she glided across the line in 10.67 – far ahead of her compatriots Shericka Jackson, who took silver in 10.73, and Tokyo Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, who claimed bronze in 10.81.
Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith ran her heart out, and equalled her national record of 10.83, but it was only good enough for fourth. “It sucks,” she admitted. “I was so close.”
But this night was about Fraser-Pryce who – incredibly – won her first Olympic 100m title as far back as 2008, a day after Usain Bolt gatecrashed into the sporting stratosphere.
Since then she has won world titles in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2019 and now 2022. After the birth of her son Zyon in 2017 through a caesarean section, she feared she would never get her core strength back, let alone return to her best. Instead with every passing year her legend has only grown.
“I hope it shows that age doesn’t change anything,” she said afterwards. “You can be in your 20s, you can be in your 30s, and you can still accomplish greatness. You just have to compete and trust yourself and your instinct and your gut.
“I feel blessed to have this talent and to continue to do it at 35, having a baby, still going, and hopefully inspiring women that they can make their own journey.”
Who would now dare doubt that she is the greatest female sprinter of them all? Not when this victory made her the first athlete to win five world titles in an individual running event – as well as the oldest ever world champion on the track, surpassing Justin Gatlin.
And the most incredible stat of all? Fraser-Pryce has never run faster in a 100m final during her seven global victories than she did on Sunday night. At 35.
The ultra-fast Beynon track at Hayward Field is certainly a major factor in that staggering accomplishment. As is the new range of super spikes introduced in 2019, which top sprint coach Lance Baumann reckons are worth around 0.07-0.10 sec over 100m. In recent years her technique has got even better too.
However when asked about the secret of her success, Fraser-Pryce opted for a simpler explanation. “I am a competitor,” she replied. “I love to compete.”
As she celebrated, Asher-Smith bowed her head in lane eight and wondered what might have been. She was close to Fraser-Pryce for the first 30m of the race, and still held onto second place until 25m to go when Jackson charged past her.
Even so, bronze was still on the cards coming into the final strides. But at that point she was blindsided by Thompson-Herah in lane four, who stormed home to beat her by 0.02.
“I couldn’t see anything from lane eight,” Asher-Smith said afterwards. “That’s both a positive and a negative. You run without the effect of tensing up, but also you can’t see anyone on your shoulder. It was a good run from me. A very good run. Unfortunately, it was fourth, but the calibre of the final was amazing.”
That much is true. Britain’s other sprinter Daryll Neita ran 10.96 in her semi-final and still missed out on the final.
When Asher-Smith was asked whether Fraser-Pryce was the greatest, she nodded. “Probably,” she said. “That was phenomenal. 10.67 is a fantastic time, and in a championship is amazing. It’s one thing to do in a one-off which is great. To do it on the back of two other races is amazing.”
The bad news for Fraser-Pryce’s rivals is that she has no plans to ease down. Rather, she plans to speed up.
“I am always hungry to do more,” she explained, her words laced with ominous intent. “Because I believe there is more to be done. I definitely believe I can run faster. And I am not going to stop until I do.”
July 18, 2022 at 12:42PM Sean Ingle in Eugene