Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce may be significantly older than most of her main sprint challengers at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but the Jamaican sprinter is only getting faster.
The 34-year-old is now, quite simply, the fastest woman alive and is undoubtedly the woman to beat over the sprint distances in Japan. She has hit the form of her life with new personal bests over the 100m and 200m in Kingston in June, the former the second quickest time ever. Her 10.63 seconds is only bettered by the late Florence Griffith Joyner.
Fraser-Pryce’s honours list is already mighty impressive. She is a two-time Olympic champion and a nine-time world gold medallist, with a number of other titles to her name.
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How, then, can she be getting quicker? It seems becoming a mother has completely changed her outlook. Just as British cyclist Laura Kenny has recently told Eurosport, Fraser-Pryce is now much more relaxed. Sprinting is no longer the most important thing in the world to her.
Zyon was born in August 2017 - the same month as Kenny gave birth to Albie - and four years on, both athletes are at the top of their game. Fraser-Pryce has previously talked about how she was not able to savour victories in the past - it was all about the next event. Now, it is about soaking up, and sharing, the moment.
So much about Fraser-Pryce is unconventional, and that is what makes her so fascinating and endearing to follow. ‘Mommy Rocket’ is just 5ft tall, a huge difference compared to most of her rivals. She is part of the ‘movement’, as Kenny calls it, of mums who are showing the world there are no barriers.
“It definitely meant a lot because, as women, there are so many things that we have to deal with and so many curve balls that people throw at us,” she told Athletics Weekly earlier this year.
“They talk about you having a baby and coming back to competition as if it’s impossible. It may not have happened often but it shouldn’t stop an athlete from continuing their career.
“It’s more than just coming back from having a baby but also understanding, as a woman, how important it is to have representation and to have women represent us at every different level and every stage in life – and still be able to succeed at the highest point to give women more hope.
“Everything has to be defined for women, whereas for men it’s almost as if they don’t age or their career is for a lifetime until they decide when [to stop], but for us others want to decide when we should exit.”
Fraser-Pryce has developed such a short, efficient stride pattern to out-run her rivals that she almost looks like she is gliding across the track. At Rio 2016, she was out-performed by her fellow Jamiacan Elaine Thompson Herah, who has struggled with injury in recent years.
Now, she is surely the favourite to clean up over the sprint distances. Only the USA’s Gabrielle Thomas has run faster than her this season - over the 200m - a day before Fraser-Pryce clocked the second quickest time this year. It would not be surprising if that was just to lay down a marker.
Her task has got easier with Sha’Carri Richardson’s ban for testing positive for cocaine, but Thomas and Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith will have something to say about that.
But Fraser-Pryce is running quicker than practically anyone else, she is riding a wave of confidence, and she has proved time and time again that she is a big stage performer.
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