Olympic 100m champ Fraser defies pressure

Published: Sunday | July 26, 2009

Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer

Pressure: an oppressive condition of physical or mental distress. It's something Olympic 100-metre champion Shelly-Ann Fraser has been running under for seemingly all of her short international career.

As a relative unknown Fraser burst into national focus last year finishing second at the national championships in what was then her personal best of 10.85 seconds behind Kerron Stewart (10.80) and ahead of defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown.

The latter was unable to earn a spot to represent Jamaica in the women's 100-metre sprint in Beijing because, despite running an amazing 10.88 seconds, she finished fourth. Fraser's MVP teammate Sherone Simpson was third in 10.87. From that day in late June 2008, Fraser, who grew up in depressed conditions in Waterhouse, one of Kingston's poorest communities, had to endure a wave of calls for her or her teammate Simpson to be replaced by Campbell-Brown. Her performance was seen as a fluke and there was no way the beloved Campbell-Brown should be denied a chance to represent her country at the Olympic Games because she was sure to beat them all, including the hated Americans.

lived on the edge

As Beijing loomed Fraser and Simpson lived on the edge waiting to get the dreaded call that never came. She gradually silenced doubters with impressive performances to advance, and saved her best performance for last, winning Olympic gold in a world-leading 10.78 seconds. Stewart and Simpson shared silver medals .20 seconds behind as Jamaica, historically, swept the event.

Pressure has again come to bear this season. In a race to get fit for the national championships in June following an early-season appendectomy and hamstring injury, Fraser found her best form in time to record what was then a world-leading 10.88 seconds run into a -1.5 m/s headwind to dethrone Stewart.

This time, there have been no calls for her to be replaced, but less than a week before Fraser is set to perform at the Herculis Grand Prix in Monaco on Tuesday, July 28, she faces a new kind of pressure going forward. News that five Jamaican athletes tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs at the national championships in June, has put Fraser and her teammates under intense scrutiny. Already, the Guardian in England is reporting that this latest round of positive tests has put Jamaica's success in Beijing under a cloud of suspicion.

Bolt's clean pair of heels

They are not the only ones. "Usain Bolt showed a clean pair of heels to his rivals in typically spectacular fashion last night, but only after the athletics world had come to terms with the fact that the same cannot be said of his teammates.

"Five positive drug tests in Jamaica provided the worst preamble to the latest exercise in exorcising a sport's demons," the Times Online reported yesterday following the first day of the London Grand Prix.

"Boy them a go kill we with questions," Fraser began a post on her Facebook page in response to the news.

It is unlikely to shake her resolve. MVP President Bruce James reports that Fraser, now in Europe preparing for the championships, is back to full health. "She is literally improving daily in training," he said.

Her one focus, he said, is on performing well at the World Championships in Berlin knowing that if she does so she will bring glory to Jamaica.

Pressure, what pressure? "Life goes on," was how she ended her Facebook post.