New York – The Jamaican dynamic duo of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (SAFP) and archrival Veronica Campbell-Brown (VCB) continued to dominate the local sprinting landscape. And with a country blessed with tremendous sprint talent, and where Olympic and World champions and medalists are aplenty, that speaks volumes.
Fraser-Pryce, officially the fourth fastest woman of all time, behind the blistering 1988 world record time of 10.49secs established by the late Olympic champion Florence Griffith-Joyner (FloJo), trails only Carmelita Jeter, among contemporaries. Jeter has recorded a personal best (PB) of 10.64secs, and was ranked Number One in the world by Track and Field News Magazine, dubbed ‘The Bible’ of the Sport, because of its history and in-depth analyses.
The now 26-yr-old Jamaican speed demon, one of the greatest starters of all time, is well on her way, based on the last five seasons, to be rightly regarded as the most successful female short sprinter in history. This was first acknowledged by coach and mentor, Stephen Francis. SAFP won a World title and two Olympic titles, and despite an injury, or in spite of it, finished just fourth and out of the medals at the 2011 Worlds. Now she is back in training after a brief hiatus to recover from a hectic Olympic year, and has reported strong progress going into the 2013 season, to be highlighted by the World Championships in Russia, this summer.
Continued Drive to Improve
One of the overriding factors of an SAFP success is her continued drive to improve upon her status. For instance, she recently spoke of her desire to run indoors for the first time, and believes, notwithstanding her heavenly starts, that she can improve upon that aspect of her race. At last year’s Olympics she vowed never again to attempt the sprint double. As she put it then, “It is the hardest thing I have ever done.” However, pain is but a fleeting memory as she declared that she intends to attempt the Worlds sprint double this year.
But who could blame a woman who looked a winner in the Olympic 200m finals, and eventually took the silver in a PB of 22.09secs? She is now the seventh best Jamaican of all time in the event, trailing Merlene Ottey (21.66secs), 1988 Olympic silver medalist Grace Jackson (21.72secs), former two-time Olympic champion and World champion Veronica Campbell-Brown (21.74secs), Juliet Cuthbert (21.75secs), and Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson both at (22.00secs).
I am not too keen on an indoor season for Fraser-Pryce, for the simple fact that it could be a costly experiment in a championship year. Indoor races are usually run on ‘manufactured’ tracks that can result in serious injuries if one makes an erroneous step. This danger can only be mitigated if she mounts a very brief and calculated campaign. The genius of Fraser-Pryce lies within herself. Historically, races were lost because she weakened at the end of races. Not anymore. She closes her races powerfully.
Pryce has chalked up all of the recognition she so richly deserves: the Jamaican federation track and field Female Athlete of the Year; Jamaica’s female athlete of the year; and one of the top five female athletes of the year, as judged by the world governing body of track and field, the International Athletic Association Federation (IAAF); ranked as the sixth best Female Athlete of the Year by Track and Field News Magazine. So now it should come as no surprise that she cops the symbolic award for Performance of the Year by Caribbean TrackLife.
The Performance of the Year came at the London Olympics, as under severe pressure from a very strong assembled field, Fraser-Pryce, the pocket rocket, was left in the blocks in her pet event. In the Olympic final, with perennial adversary Carmelita Jeter, the strongest finisher in the women’s event well clear and heading for victory, Fraser-Pryce dug deep and came through with a devastating stretch run to nip them at the line, producing the winning time of 10.75secs. Teammate VCB finished a close-up third for the bronze, repeating her 2004 bronze medal win.
SAFP is also the recipient of the second best effort of the year, when setting a national record of 10.70secs in winning the 100m title in Kingston. That became one of the top two fastest sprints run in about 15 years. Her coach believes that she has not reached her optimum and would have been faster at the Olympics if she followed instructions. I have often believed that, Pryce, at her best, is a 10.54 to 10.59secs performer. But I see her doing this time outside of the championship years, where the pressure and preparation to compete through the rounds is a factor. She further underlined her dominance last year by winning the lucrative Grand Prix 100m title in dominant fashion.
The veteran Veronica Campbell-Brown impressed with the third best performance by a Jamaican female track star. She has struggled the last few years as she continued to be challenged by the greatest group of female sprinters ever assembled: the aforementioned SAFP, who promptly supplanted her as Jamaica’s best, Olympic gold medalists Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson, and lesser lights like Aleen Bailey, an Olympic relay gold medalist and Sheri-Ann Brooks, the former Commonwealth sprint champion. VCB still finds her way around the competition as she won a second consecutive World Indoor 60m title in a PB of 7.01secs, no less.
Campbell-Brown also gets credit for taking Olympic bronze in the London 100m. This was a very inspirational performance in a highly competitive field, finishing strongly and making it to the podium. At 30, her best years might be behind her, but never count her out; she is one of the most redoubtable athletes on the circuit.
While one can argue that many Jamaican female athletes performed well in 2012, only the strong survives; Fraser-Pryce and Campbell are terrific survivors. The proof, they say, is in the pudding.