Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Why did Shelly leave?

Published:Friday | August 26, 2016 | 8:00 AMRaymond Graham
Stephen Francis issuing instructions to his charges at a training session in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during the 2016 Olympic Games.
Fraser-Pryce
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland:

Since her departure from high school, 29-year-old Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has spent all of her senior career in track and field under the guidance of MVP head coach Stephen Francis.

Francis, arguably the top sprint coach in the world, has guided Fraser-Pryce to seven individual world titles. These include three IAAF World Championships 100m, an IAAF World Championships 200m, two Olympic 100m, and one IAAF World 60m Indoor title.

With that record, most people expected Fraser-Pryce to remain with her successful coach until she decided to hang up her spikes.

However, during the Rio Olympic Games, the bombshell dropped. Fraser-Pryce would part company with her long-time coach. At first, many believed it to be a wild rumour before Coach Francis confirmed that the news was factual.

What are the real reasons for Fraser-Pryce's departure?

ATHLETISSIMA DIAMOND LEAGUE

On Wednesday evening, The Gleaner caught up with Francis at his hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, a day before the Athletissima Diamond League meet, where four of his charges, including Thompson, were down to compete.

Francis was quizzed on the likely reasons for his star sprinter's departure from his camp.

As usual, he was frank with his responses.

"Shelly informed me that she was unhappy with the job I had done with her this year," Francis said while accepting the blame. He added that she said she was going to make a change.

LOOKING AT THE FUTURE

He continued: "She had some good years, but looking at the future, I think she has every right to assess what is good for her. Staying with me as her coach was not best for her and so she told me that she was going to leave."

After guiding her to several titles at the highest level, Francis was asked if he thought this was a big slap in the face for him.

"No, I do not think that way ... the past is not relevant to a lot of people when they are making decisions about the future, and the most important thing for her and any athlete is 'What will the future hold for me?

"If she is going to continue in the sport, she cannot dwell in the past, regardless of how well she did in the past, and if she is unhappy and does not think she can achieve what she did in the past, she has to make that decision to move on," said Francis.

Francis was then asked if he thought the rise of his new star, Elaine Thompson, who won the sprint double in Rio, was a factor in Fraser- Pryce's decision to exit the MVP Track Club.

"I think we should take her word as it is. I mean, it is impossible for anybody to know what is in her mind. I have the tendency to take people's words as they know what is going on inside of them, so even though it is tempting to make that kind of connection, I think it is perfectly reasonable that she doesn't think what is being done in her training is good for her as she thinks that what has been done the past year was enough to have held her back, and she wants to move on," he said.

Asked if he thought that the fact that she had not performed at her best in the past year despite great success is over the years justified her leaving or if was there something else.

"No, I do not think so. I think she is convinced that given the environment that is there, the setback could have been handled better and if changes which she wanted to be made were made, she would have had a better chance of defending her 100 metres title, and it is for her to make that decision. And it is she who has to bear the consequences, and I am hoping that her new training situation will justify what she said."

In the past, athletes who have departed from Francis to go elsewhere have not had the same success they had under his guidance, so Francis was asked if he thought Fraser-Pryce was special and could have success wherever she went.

"I have found over the years that athletes who I have coached quickly developed a sense that the importance of their coach is reduced in their mind no matter how lowly a beginning they had. Eventually, in their mind, they believe they are extremely talented and my role is incidental to their success, and it is human.

"In Shelly's case, I think she has been through a lot of success. As a result, her expectation is very high and it is difficult to accept results which are not the best as she is used to it, and I think she has to be in a situation where there is a continued search for improvement. In this case, she thinks improvement is at an end and she has to take chances to see if she can get better," concluded Francis.