It is not easy to outshine Usain Bolt, the greatest sprinter that has ever lived, especially not after the most recent staging 14 IAAF World Athletic Championships held in Moscow where Bolt won an unprecedented third consecutive 200-metre tile, his second world championship triple, and including the Olympics, his fourth triple overall at major championships.
But I daresay, notwithstanding Bolt’s outstanding performances, it was another Jamaican who shone brightest in Moscow. Bolt won the 100m in, by his standards, a pedestrian but world leading 9.77-seconds; the 200m, again by his standards, a pedestrian but world leading 19.66; and he anchored the sprint relay squad to an inevitable third consecutive world championship title 37.36s. Like his two individual efforts, the time in the relay was a world-leading time. The performances may been world-leading but were not “Bolt-esque.”
When compared to his previous world championship performances 9.58, 19.19, and 37.10 in 2009, 19.40 and 37.04 in 2011, the 2013 performances were nowhere near Bolt’s usual extremely high standards and Bolt, unfortunately, is judged by his own standards since it is he, since 2008, when he exploded at the Olympic Games in Beijing, who set those standards.
It is why I was more impressed by the performances of Shelly Ann Frazer-Pryce in Moscow. In terms of physical appearance Frazer-Pryce and Bolt are complete opposites. Bolt is a giant of a man at 6′ 5 inches, well-muscled and with extremely long limbs. The pocket rocket, is a tiny 5′ 1 inch, curvy little bundle of energy, with tiny limbs in comparison to Bolt’s. But when it comes to speed, the little lady from Waterhouse is as dominant as her more celebrated countryman.
In Moscow SAFP became the first Jamaican and Caribbean woman to win three gold medals at the same championships. Only Germany’s Silke Gladisch and Katrin Krabbe in 1983 and 1991 respectively, had won the sprint double before. Alyson Felix won the 200m in 2009, and also won gold in the sprint and mile relays.
Frazer-Pryce dominated a quality 10o-metre field that included Carmelita Jeter, Murielle Ahoure, Kerron Stewart, Octavious Freeman, English Gardener, and the dangerous Blessing Okagbare. Every single woman in the field had broken 11-seconds more than once this season but that didn’t seem to matter to SAFP, as she blitzed the field in a world leading 10.71 seconds. Her winning margin of 0.22 seconds was the biggest ever at a world championship women’s sprint final.
She returned to destroy another quality field in the women’s 200m in another world leading time, and in doing so ran three-time champion Alyson Felix, perhaps the favourite to win the event, literally into the ground. Felix, forced to press like she never had before crumbled to the floor, felled by a hamstring tear most likely caused by her attempts to match pace with the scorching speed of the Jamaican.
But SAFP was only getting started. She anchored the Jamaican sprint relay team to a new national record and second fastest time of all time running an anchor leg that was so fast she looked she was barely touching the track. Her legs were moving at almost cartoon-like speed, a virtual blur as she blitzed the leg in an estimated 9.8 seconds. The margin between first and second was more than 1.5-seconds; an incredible performance!
In addition to the outstanding performances, SAFP also opened up a little more to the media. Previously she was known to offer a polite smile and said very little. This time however, she opened up a little more revealing how sweet she could be. After her 100m triumph, she reached out to Jamaican teammate Sherone Simpson who missed the championship because of a positive drug test, offering her words of encouragement that moved many to tears. Similarly, after the 200m, she offered words of support and consolation to her fallen rival Felix.
She also removed her spikes and danced, and giggled and won the hearts of a whole new set of fans. With her pink hair, pink nails and really ‘hot’ pink running spikes, there was a newness about SAFP in Moscow, a very refreshing improvement that I am sure will attract a new wave of fans and a hopefully interest from global sponsors who see in her, all that is right with the sport and all that is right with mankind. SAFP is the living embodiment of the example that through hard work and discipline, one can rise from the most desperate of circumstances to becoming the very best in the world. And, that it can be done with a smile and a giggle and shocking pink hair.