Shelly's test - Fraser-Pryce returns to high quality Pre-Classic
Winning the Olympics is an unknown and even an emergency appendectomy months before the 2009 World Championships pale in the mind of Jamaican super sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who described her efforts to win three gold medals at this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after a serious toe injury as her biggest challenge so far in her career.
Fraser-Pryce will make her return to the track in the 100m at today's Prefontaine Classic the IAAF Diamond League stop in Eugene, Oregon, after missing several weeks of track work after a toe on her left foot, which has been bothering her for over a year, started acting up earlier this year.
The injury has kept the two-time Olympic 100m champion out of meets in Kingston and Shanghai, but the 29 year-old says she is eager to see where she is at this point 69 days away from the Olympics - in what is as much a mental test as a physical one.
"Training was going great in my background season. I was hitting the times and getting the work done and then, unexpectedly, I had a reoccurrence of an injury and it set me back quite a bit, but, to be honest, as an athlete, you have to prepare for things like that mentally, so I am just trying to work through all the pain to try and get ready for the Olympics," said Fraser-Pryce during a pre-meet press conference at the Valley River Inn.
"I had this problem last year, so it's my second year running with this injury but it has got worse. We are trying to get that fixed and right now, we are still trying to get pressure off the toe and see how best we can work around this.
"I've never really been in this situation when it comes to injuries. I'm not injury-prone. I've had injuries, but nothing major. This is probably my biggest injury since I have been in athletics. When it just happened, it was nerve-wrecking. I couldn't sleep, I was anxious, and I started to think a lot but right now, I am a lot better. I am learning to cope ... I am still very focused and motivated and I still have my goals in mind," said Fraser-Pryce.
She noted that she has been forced to do a lot of her work from home, inclusive of core strengthening and gym exercises, but is determined to overcome this setback.
"I think it's more a mental test than anything else right now. I am one of those athletes who is able to run through pain because I believe that all athletes, in order to get to where they need to, there is some amount of pain you will feel, but I think I have surpassed my threshold and I am just trying to stay focused and stay in the game. You don't want to put yourself out mentally," Fraser-Pryce underlined.
Today's test will be provided by old rivals Carmelita Jeter, Murielle Ahoure and Blessing Okagbare, along with fellow Jamaicans Simone Facey, who, with 11.00, is the second fastest Jamaican so far in the event this year.
A lot of interest will also follow the men's 100m, where Asafa Powell will square off against the American pair of Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay, as well as early season pacesetter Femi Ogunode (Qatar), who leads the world with 9.91 seconds, and World Champs bronze medallist Andre DeGrasse.
Elaine Thompson will compete in her first 200m of the season, where world champion Dafne Schippers and the in-form Tori Bowie await, in what should be an exciting contest that promises the first sub-22 seconds clocking of the season, while national record holder Rusheen McDonald may have to go close to his 43.93 if he is to threaten the Kirani James, LaShawn Merritt 400m duopoly in a thrilling quarter-miler showdown that also features sub-43 talent in Isaac Makwala and Youssef Masrahi.
Stephenie-Ann McPherson and Shericka Jackson will look to reel in fast-starting Bahamian Shaunae Miller in the women's 400m, with Natasha Hastings and Sanya Richards-Ross also looking to impress in front of their home crowd.
Leading hurdler Omar McLeod puts his undefeated start on the line against compatriot Hansle Parchment, Aries Merritt, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and David Oliver in what is, as always, a fiercely competitive 110m hurdles field, with major interest also coming in the 100m hurdles, which feature top guns Brianna Rollins, Dawn Harper-Nelson, Jasmin Stowers, Sharika Nelvis and Kendra Harrison, who is responsible for the three fastest times in the event this year.