Sports

Slow down!

Grand Prix ambassador Fraser-Pryce has words of advice for budding athletes

BY HOWARD WALKER
Senior staff reporter
walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 17, 2019

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Double Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce believes the five-meet Digicel Grand Prix Series will be a hit and will work wonders in the development of high school athletes.

But Fraser-Pryce — who epitomises the successful transition from high school to the professional ranks where she jumped from 11.74 seconds to 10.78 in two years, culminating with Olympic 100m gold — is pleading with the young athletes to have patience and not “stress” themselves.

“Because of what is happening now in track and field, where a lot of our athletes are doing well professionally and a lot of our athletes are doing well in high school settings, I find that more athletes are now pressuring themselves — and I think the more you pressure yourself as an athlete the harder for you to make that transition, because stress is not good,” Fraser-Pryce told the Jamaica Observer last week.

Fraser-Pryce, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion who is the only female to be crowned World champion over 100m three times (2009, 2013, 2015), is the Digicel ambassador for the Grand Prix Series.

“I am honoured to be a part of the Digicel Grand Prix series, because I believe it will enhance our training programme here in Jamaica for our high school athletes,” she said.

“They will be having some seminars with students and I will be a part of those seminars, sharing my experiences and just giving advice to our athletes as it relates to competing and also their future. I will be also be a part of making persons aware that we have this Digicel Grand Prix going on, so I am really excited to be a part of it and what it represents for Jamaica,” Fraser-Pryce added.

Back in her youthful days there weren't as many incentivised development meets as there are now, but enough to make a real impact, Fraser-Pryce noted.

“I would say we still had a lot of meets when I was in high school. I wouldn't say that it was less, but just because of the facilities that are being put in place. We have additional meets that are coming on board that offer incentives, which is a plus, so persons tend to highlight those more. But back then we had a lot of developmental meets that are still going on to this day,” she pointed out.

The Wolmerian wasn't a standout star at high school, in fact, when she placed third at the 2008 Senior National Championships, Fraser-Pryce was virtually an unknown, and there were cries for her spot to be given to a more experienced runner. The rest, as they say, is history.

Her brightest moment came in 2004 when she won the Class Two 100m in 11.73 seconds at Champs. Fellow Olympian Anastasia LeRoy of Holmwood Technical High School was fifth with 12.05.

Then in 2005, Fraser-Pryce stepped up to Class One and was defeated by one of the all-time greats at Champs, Anneisha McLaughlin of Holmwood Technical, who won in 11.62 seconds. Fraser-Pryce clocked 11.74. In the 200m Fraser-Pryce was fourth with 24.60, which race was won again by McLaughlin in 23.40.

Then in her final year in 2006, Fraser-Pryce was fourth in the Class One 100m in 11.74 seconds, in a race won by Schillonie Calvert in 11.39. Fellow Olympian Anastasia LeRoy was third in 11.73.

“When I started I wasn't necessarily thinking of becoming a professional athlete. I knew I was good at the sport and I just wanted to do well, so there was less pressure on me to excel because I wasn't a super star at Champs,” she pointed out

“I am not saying super stars can't excel, because Usain was a super star in high school and he excelled. But it was a different time where there was no social media, there was no added pressure of parents and scouts or persons looking to manage athletes,” Fraser-Pryce explained.

“Some of our athletes are a little more pressured, whether it's from their schools, whether it's from home — because the parents now are a lot more involved. You can go to track meets and you can see the parents — normally you don't know who the parents are for some of the athletes, but you know now,” said Fraser-Pryce, who recently became a mother.

Over the years a number of high school stars have fallen by the wayside after failing to make that transition, but through the upcoming Digicel Grand Prix Series Fraser-Pryce will be giving a number of lectures and sharing her knowledge and experience with the students.

“I think a lot of them want to do well because they see us doing well, and I don't believe they are patient. You have to be patient; it won't happen for everybody all at once.

“For some athletes, it's after four years they won their gold medal, so it's about being patient and putting in the work and allow yourself to get there without becoming paranoid or stuff like that,” Fraser-Pryce cautioned.

Having turned 32 years old last December, the “Pocket Rocket” is back with a bang, looking her typical explosive self, clocking 7.21 seconds over 60m at the Queens Development Meet few weeks ago.

The MVP star, who raced against 16-year-old phenom Brianna Williams last year and who has heard and seen some of the most promising runners, is pleading with them to keep their heads on their bodies.

“Just stay grounded (and) understand that this is part of the journey if eventually you want to become a professional athlete. It doesn't stop here, so don't get complacent and think that you are very good now and you are on top of your game,” said Fraser-Pryce after just completing her gruelling early morning training session and could hardly stand for the interview.

“Just remember that you are working towards a bigger picture... I don't want them to think that they have to overwork at this time. Don't pressure yourself thinking I need to do 100 abs or 40 push ups (because) you are still young (and should) be enjoying the process... enjoy the journey because when it gets to this stage it's a little more tedious and you want to make sure you have good memories,” said Fraser-Pryce.


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