EUGENE, Oré. – That broad smile would come a split second later. When Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce saw her name first appear Sunday night in the 100-meter final, she raised her right fist twice in the air and let out a loud scream towards the stands.
Yes, she did. Still.
And shame on anyone who thought it was over for Jamaica’s favorite 35-year-old mum – the country’s most famous 100m runner alongside Usain Bolt.
Fraser-Pryce accelerated his return to the top of the sprint game, winning his fifth world title in the 100 – that’s two more than Bolt amassed in his decade of dominance – by leading a Jamaican sweep and knocking out the favorite , two-time Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah.
“So many people believe that when women hit 35, it kind of diminishes our gift, our talent,” Fraser-Pryce said. “But I’m still able to line up and compete, and that’s very special.”
Short of lane 6, Fraser-Pryce led all the way on a glorious 74-degree night in Oregon and crossed the line in 10.67 seconds. She beat Shericka Jackson by 0.06 seconds while Thompson-Herah finished a surprising third in 10.81.
The smile came later. A lot of them, in fact.
With her blonde hair tied in a braid on top and with green-tinted locks billowing in the breeze, Fraser-Pryce offered smiles and took selfies with fans as she walked through her victory lap.
It was a different scene than last year in Tokyo, when she seemed puzzled and frustrated at how she could have finished second to Thompson-Herah at the Olympics by such a huge margin – 0.13.
“I came home and worked and worked and came here, and had success,” the beaming sprinter said in her on-track interview.
The night started with the thought that Thompson-Herah might knock Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 34-year-old world record of 10.49. Less than a year ago, Thompson-Herah ran 10.54 on that same track in the Prefontaine Classic to join Flo Jo as the only other woman to go below 10.6.
Fraser-Pryce has run exactly 10.6 before, however, and instead of Flo Jo’s record dropping, it’s the one held by Marion Jones – her 23-year-old World Championship mark of 10.70 – who has been abandoned.
Fraser-Pryce adds that to the world titles she won at the 100 in 2009, ’13, ’15 and ’19. She also won the Olympic Games in 2008 and 2012.
It was no big surprise that the aftermath in the hallways of the stadium looked like a party.
Dozens of ticket holders wearing “Shelly-Ann” t-shirts – with a picture of her back then when she still wore suspenders – were heading for the exits, a few of them clapping hands.
One of them, a former elite sprinter in Jamaica, Errol Byles, said he met Fraser-Pryce on a plane. They exchanged numbers and stayed in touch. Before the world championships, he asked her to send shirts, and they proudly wore them on their way out.
Byles recalled the mood in Jamaica when the 21-year-old then known as Shelly-Ann Fraser qualified for her first Olympics, in 2008. She was too young, skeptics said , and had nothing to do to take the place that could’ve gone to reigning world champion at the time, Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Fraser took that spot and then led a Jamaican sweep in the 100. It looked a bit like an undercard for Bolt’s world-record win the night before. However, a star was born.
“She has the heart of a champion and she is determined to prove everyone wrong,” Byles said. “Now that she’s older and a mum, some think she’s not as good as others. But she’s determined to prove otherwise, and that’s what she’s doing.
And so, a night after the United States swept the podium in the men’s 100m, Fraser-Pryce and Co. showed there was plenty of speed left on the island.
Thompson-Herah, who paced slowly, several paces behind Fraser-Pryce and Jackson, at the start of the lap of honor, expressed mixed emotions.
“It means a lot to us. We worked hard,” she said. “One-two-three at the Olympics and one-two-three at the championships. Even though I wanted to win, it didn’t work out But I still continue the journey.
Likewise, it turns out, is Fraser-Pryce.
Her latest victory marks the defense of the title she won in 2019, a win that came two years after she missed out on the world championships in London when she had her baby son, now 4-year-old son Zyon. She called it “a victory for motherhood.”
That night, she also told the story of sitting on her bed and crying the day she found out she was pregnant. People suggested that his career was over.
Not by far.
“It’s very special to still be able to be here,” Fraser-Pryce said. “Just to show other women that you can start anywhere and you can still be successful, not just in your 20s, but in your 30s, and it will still make sense.”
The Jamaican sweep offered a brief plot change from what turns into The America Show in the first worlds to be contested in the United States. The United States won nine medals on Sunday, marking what organizers of the meet called the best day for any country in world championship history. The old record was eight medals won by the Soviet Union in 1991.
Minutes before the women’s 100m, Grant Holloway and Trey Cunningham finished 1-2 in the 110 hurdles. The run could have been a sweep if it hadn’t been for a false start by Oregon wide receiver-hurdler Devon Allen, who entered the competition ranked second in the world. The red card was met with vigorous boos from the crowd. Allen took his time walking off the track, clearly unhappy with the call.
Around this time, Ryan Crouser was putting the finishing touches on America’s 1-2-3 in the shot put. It was Crouser’s second straight world title after winning the Olympics last year. His rival, Joe Kovacs, was second and his teammate Josh Awotunde was third.
“We are proud of it. We always say we’re the best country in the world at the shot put, and today we proved it,” Kovacs said.
American pole vaulters Katie Nageotte, who added that to her title in Tokyo last year, and Sandi Morris, who now has three world championship silver medals, also ended at that time.
Earlier in the day, Americans Brooke Andersen and Janee’ Kassanavoid won gold and bronze in the hammer throw. By the end of day three, the United States had 14 medals – 11 more than Jamaica and three other countries tied for second place; and six gold medals, triple the total of second-placed Ethiopia.
One of Ethiopia’s gold medals came from Tamirat Tola in Sunday morning’s marathon. In the men’s 10,000, world record holder Joshua Cheptegei of Kenya defended his world title clocking 27:27.43. The other champion of the day was Mykolas Alekena of Lithuania in the discus throw.
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