DOHA: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the world’s fastest female sprinter, believes in spreading the gospel of goodness. The Jamaican’s is a classic rags to riches story that started in Kingston in 1987 but her career took off only when she harnessed her love for running after years of hardship as a kid.
The diminutive sprinter is the first woman in history to be a triple world champion, but life wasn’t as cosy and rewarding as it is now. Fraser-Pryce didn’t lose the lessons she picked up as a teenager and none of the track and field glory has gone to her head.
The 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist in the 100m last year launched the ‘Pocket Rocket Foundation’ to support and tutor underprivileged children.
The five-time world champion proudly claims she has her mother’s resilience and love for running to make life worth living.
Fraser-Pryce today will feature in the opening round of the 2014 IAAF Diamond League at Qatar Sports Club Stdaium when she competes in the 100m finals. In a candid chat before her first race of the season, the smiling Jamaican answered a few questions:
Question: Tell us something about your hairstyle. Is that your new hairdo?
Fraser-Pryce: Yes, everyone is asking about the hair-style ‘what style is that?’ I like the freedom of changing my hair. Sometimes I get very bored in my hair (laughs)
Question: Can you tell us something about your foundation?
Fraser-Pryce: I launched the Pocket Rocket Foundation last year - this foundation focuses on student athletes and tries to help them learn to balance things. This foundation helps them to focus on sport and studies so that they can have a way out because I am from a poor background. I understand the challenges in life, how hard it is on poor parents. I created the foundation to make sure these children have somebody to look up to and somebody to give them the way out. Once they learn, then they too will transform the world they live in.
Question: How was it growing up in Kinsgton, Jamaica?
Fraser-Pryce: I am from a single mother (Maxine). My mother had three of us. We had one room. It was difficult growing up. She was self-employed. She didn’t finish high school so you can imagine how hard it was for her to make it for family.
Question: What kind of a role did your mother play in your early years?
Fraser-Pryce: I knew from a young age that life is very hard. She (mother Maxine) was very determined to make sure that we did better than she did. My internal drive came from her. I saw how hard she worked and suffered, how many times she cried. That made me stronger as a person. I am from a poor community. For a young girl like me, I could get pregnant or drop out of school or something like that (could happen). It was always one way - it was always to get out and not become a statistic but a success, to become somebody, to break the trend.
Question: Have you rewarded your mum?
Fraser-Pryce: Oh yes (laughs), I have. I am fortunate that I got her own home, a car. She can afford to get things she needs. She is the person who gave me the things when I needed them though she didn’t have them. She sacrificed so much for us when we were growing up. I definitely wanted to reward her.
Question: How did you take up athletics?
Fraser-Pryce: I was always small (laughs) and always running. I was just running (laughs). When I was going to the shop I was running. I took part in every championship in Jamaica. Primary, high school, college ... so running was with me. But I think I knew how to win. In high school I was always good starter, never a good finisher. I went to university and that changed. I knew I was gifted and talented so I worked hard at that.
Question: Did you win the races you took part in?
Fraser-Pryce: Most competitions I won. I hated losing. When I was a kid, I didn’t like to lose. When I lost, I cried. At that age I ran 1500, 400 - I was young and energetic and young. By the time I was in high school it was only 100. Then later I focused on the 200 as well.
Question: How do you feel at the start of the new season?
Fraser-Pryce: This is my first 100 of the season so I am excited and looking forward to running. Training has been going well. So let’s see what happens. I am hoping to go below 11 actually. That’s a dream now. I try not to focus on time. I try to focus on execution. Because I know if I execute well, then I am right on target.
Question: What’s your goal in the 2014 season?
Fraser-Pryce: My goal is to run 21 in the 200. That’s my main focus. That’s what I am working on. I am really looking to breaking that 22-second barrier. That’s my dream. That’s been my goal for the last two seasons so let’s see what happens.
Question: Are you still motivated to do well at top events?
Fraser-Pryce: I believe that if you are doing well, then you should take advantage of that. A lot of people say ‘oh you need to rest’. My programme for this year is tailored for that (goal). Next year are the world championships. The year after that are the Olympic Games. I can sustain myself so of course I am still motivated. THE PENINSULA