Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce: “Motherhood doesn’t diminish your capabilities”

Jamaica's Fraser-Pryce is in the form of her life. The sprint legend and new world 100m champion spoke to Olympics.com about her evergreen career and the legacy she wishes to leave for women and mothers. 

By Sean McAlister
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

There’s just no slowing sprint legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

In a season where she has constantly pushed back the boundaries of what is possible in the field of athletics, the 35-year-old just keeps getting better.

A World 100m title last month in Oregon was followed just last weekend by the fastest time of the year, when she set 10.66 during the Diamond League meet in Silesia, Poland.

Now as she pushes ever closer to the world record of Florence Griffith-Joyner, the Jamaican is a shining example to women inside and outside of sport, as she redefines the possibilities of greatness.

“Age is a part of life, a part of the journey, but it doesn’t define who you are” Fraser-Pryce explained in an exclusive interview with Olympics.com after winning gold in the 100m at this year’s World Athletics Championships in Oregon.

“You know it’s still a moment for you to rise to the occasion.”

Since the beginning of Fraser-Pryce’s career, there have been naysayers who have doubted her ability to perform, whether that was because she was seen as “too inexperienced” during her younger days, because she chose to become a mother, or because she is now at an age when many in the past have stepped away from the sport.

But for the fastest woman in the world this year, the advice is simple. Ignore those negative voices and continue to chase your dreams.

“Off the track, I think it’s about making sure that whatever you want to do in life, you’re happy about it and you’re passionate about it, and you keep doing it, and you show up, and you believe you can,” she said.

“You know, you never listen to the opinions of others. If it doesn’t feed you or clothe you then ignore it.”

A mother inspiring mothers across the world

In 2017, Fraser-Pryce gave birth to her son Zyon, and since then she has become a voice for and example to mothers inside and outside of her sport.

At the time her son was born, she spoke on her Facebook page about how her focus had turned from putting all her efforts into defending her title at the London 2017 World Athletics Championships to “being the greatest mother I can be."

Five years on she has proven beyond doubt that it is possible to do combine her career with motherhood, even in a sport as physically and mentally demanding as athletics.

And she has a message for moms who look to her for inspiration.

“The message I would love to send to mothers is that motherhood doesn’t diminish your capabilities or hide your gifts,” she said.

“I hope you don’t hide who you are behind motherhood… It’s part of your journey, it’s who you are now, and you embrace it. It’s almost like an add-on to who you are as a woman.

“If anything it enhances who you are. So be strong and believe that you too can accomplish great things. Things change, but you definitely can get to the top.”

Still more needed to change for equality in sport

Over the past years, the performances of female sprinters like Fraser-Pryce and fellow Jamaicans Shericka Jackson and Elaine Thompson-Herah have raised the profile of women in athletics.

“I think it’s changing,” said Fraser-Pryce. “We’re definitely seeing where this shift is happening because I think the women are definitely bringing it this year in terms of competition and showing up and being competitive.”

But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t a long way to go for women to achieve the level of visibility and respect they deserve in the sport.

“I’m glad that we are finally getting that recognition, because female athletes, we are always showing up, we are always head-to-head all the time, always being competitive, always being aggressive.

“You know people talk about personalities, they talk about so many things, but that’s still not enough as far as I’m concerned. We’re still putting in the work, just like men, and a lot of men at the [finish] line don’t do anything extra.

“Why is it that we need to do something extra for us to get the same attention that they’re getting if we’re performing the same way?”

Moving the boundaries in sport

The Olympic Games Paris 2024 are just two years away, and Fraser-Pryce is determined to be there.

She will be looking to add to a resume that now includes eight Olympic medals with three of them gold, and 10 World Championships golds including five in the blue-ribband 100m event.

She is the fastest woman in the world in 2022, the fastest mom in history and the third-fastest female 100m runner of all time.

“To think that I started in 2007 when I made my first World Championship team to Osaka as a reserve,” she reflected, looking back on the 15 years she has spent building a name for herself as one of the all-time greats.

“And here I am years later, still doing it because I’m passionate about pushing boundaries and making sure that the legacy that I leave is one that shows women we can do what we want to do.”

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