Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Foster's Fairplay | Much respect to ‘Shelly’

Published:Tuesday | August 16, 2016 | 8:00 AM
Elaine Thompson (right) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce embrace as they celebrate their one-three finish in the women’s 100m finals at the Rio Olympic Games.

The long-anticipated final of the women's 100m at the 2016 Rio Olympics has happened. The results, tinted with the prospects of history always an attendant factor, will shortly be passed into athletics archives.

Foster's Fairplay, a committed convert to all that comes with the Queen Shelly-Ann (Fraser-Pryce) package, is under extreme temptation. There is an almost overpowering sentiment to focus mainly on what could have been were it not for the limiting effect of excruciating pain, coming from her recurring toe injury, which visibly hampered the double Olympic sprint champion.

However, with the euphoria of what took place on Saturday night still intact, one cannot be disrespectful to the new girl on stage, Elaine Thompson, by failing to afford her what she earned in the final.

For her and her supporters, not excluding social media friend HT, It was indeed mission accomplished and a changing of the guard in, world female sprinting.

A time of 10.71, the best legal mark to take Olympic gold - Flo-Jo's 10.54 at the 1988 Seoul Games was wind-aided - is just 1/100th of a second outside the former Manchester High School student-athlete's national record, which she shares with Fraser-Pryce.

There is a district in hilly Manchester, known as Banana Ground, where the new Olympic champion grew up, embraced by the tender and loving care of her grandmother, Hyacinth Ricketts, affectionately known as 'Gloria'.

On the night of what was to be to the residents a sweet aroma of victory, there was a massive turnout, all in a festive mood, considerably heightened by the eventual triumph of their girl. The Member of Parliament, as is the tradition of centre staging in these moments, was also in attendance. Promises to upgrade the district with better roads and a monument to Thompson's epic performance were made - another staple in these circumstances.

 

JUSTIFIED HIGH

 

Coach Stephen Francis and the MVP track club family, of whom all three of the country's 100m finalists (Christania Williams included) are a part, must be on a quite justified high, with its confirmation of their billing that they are to sprinting what the great Brazilian, PelÈ, was to football - the best.

It is easy to forget 21-year-old Williams, given her eighth-place in the final, but whose early imprint on the world sprinting horizon was another feature of the proceedings. She is a work in progress.

Several years ago, this columnist was invited to plan a restaurant grand opening on the North Coast and invite some prominent figures in the track and field family. The invitation came from the owner, who lived overseas, and the guest speaker would be his good friend, the multiple Olympic champion, Carl Lewis.

When the boss saw the prospective guest list, there was an immediate abandonment of the plan, followed by termination of services without compensation. The reason given was this: "How dare you invite all these dignitaries to steal the spotlight from my friend?"

No lesson was learnt. Almost blind respect for and admiration of Fraser-Pryce, has forced Foster's Fairplay to have both medallists showcased on the same stage.

That said, it is a popular, if disgusting, pastime, to write off the chances of a resurgence for a dethroned champion. With the vigour and verve displayed by Fraser-Pryce in conquering past challenges, alongside her unerring passion for country, it would be foolhardy to draw the curtains on her career. With that in mind, this columnist cites and endorses excerpts from a tribute paid to her on social media, which one hopes will inspire, motivate and encourage her to further great exploits.

An undisputed icon in journalism and protocol, Dame Fae Ellington, summed it all up: "My Dearest Sister, we are so very proud of you. We thank you for your poise, your courage and your graciousness. We felt your pain. Thanks for the passion and determination with which you have executed ALL your races. Your name is etched in history. Know that you are wrapped in love forever."

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