Fri | Nov 17, 2017

A Shelly-Ann Christmas gift

Published:Tuesday | December 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM
file Beijing Olympics 100m gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser (now Fraser-Pryce) with mother Maxine Simpson (right) and high school coach, Michael Carr at the Norman Manley International Airport on September 15, 2008.
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On December 27, 1986, albeit two days late, Jamaica and the world of athletics received a special Christmas gift.

Miss Maxine Simpson, a resident of the volatile community of Waterhouse, set in the bowels of inter-street strife and gun violence, gave birth to a baby girl, now known as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Miss Simpson was herself a promising sprinter, her fleetness of foot honed by constantly evading city cops seeking scalps for the benign crime of illegal vending. It took 21 years and eight months for Mummy's talents to be manifested in her daughter - the prize: an Olympic 100m gold medal, the first by a female wearing the black, gold and green.

Rocky road

The journey from Ashoka Road in the Varma Lands to Beijing was rocky. In an effort approved by Maxine, this little bundle of joy was plucked by prospective mentor Jeffery Gordon from an environment whose 'heroes' are seen adorning the area's walls displayed with artwork worthy of a higher calling. This can be seen as an act of salvage, saved from premature pregnancy and all the sad trappings awaiting economically disenfranchised females who populate the community.

With the support of Gordon, their followed passage through George Headley Primary transitioned to the Wolmer's Girls School programme, mastered by track and field head coach Michael Carr.

Shelly-Ann, after leading the now celebrated 1-2-3 in the Beijing Olympics 100m, was to be seen later beaming into the cameras of the world's sporting photographers, flag-draped with pleasure and pride. Maxine and friends, responding to their Christian culture, took to the church, carried to their eternal credit by Neville 'Bertis' Bell and his team on national television. What a defining moment in Jamaican history for this 1986 Christmas present!

The effervescent miss had staved off what would not have been spirit-lifting and confidence-building controversy about her ability to take on the event. Forget about the prospect of conquering the world at it. She would also have saved some blushes for selectors who might have succumbed to idle and ill-advised talk of "she is too inexperienced."

Shelly-Ann's summary dismissal of the challenges both on the track and coming from the laboratories could have dimmed the glow of what was to follow. However, character and charisma counteracted the chasms of cruel commentary that could gobble up the faint of heart and weak of will.

In subsequent excursions to elite competitions, her main rivals - teammate Kerron Stewart and United States' Carmelita Jeter - were dispatched back to the weights room and warm-up tracks to try again.

positive drug test

An unfortunate positive drug test, marked by carelessness by caregivers and not complicity, could have sent at least one of her handlers 'down the tubes'.

Our Christmas present remained resolute. Her sights were set on further glory and uncontrolled cheering for those who swelled Half-Way Tree square for big screen viewing of the majors and her Waterhouse adoring admirers.

London Olympics brought joy of a repeat 100m gold, a record equalled by a single female. 2013 Moscow World Champs crowned a career of excellence with double gold as the 200m title was taken.

Rio 2016 Olympics beckons, and along with it the threat of an unsurpassed three Olympic 100m titles.

What a Shelly-Ann! What a Christmas present!

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