Many athletes were confronted with a prolonged period of added mental and physical pressure due to the uncertainty and lingering effects of the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But, some rose to the occasion with groundbreaking moments once the sporting event finally took place earlier this summer.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was one of them. The 34-year-old 100m champion smashed world records in track and field, and helped secure the gold for team Jamaica who won the women’s 4x100m — proving that age doesn’t define a professional athlete’s performance because generally, as history has it, an athlete’s retirement is cemented by 30, if that.
Soon afterward, Fraser-Pryce closed out her season competing at the Gala Dei Castelli International meeting in Bellinzona, Switzerland, where she delivered yet another record-breaking performance. But outside of the sport, the Olympian is a mother, author, and entrepreneur who works tirelessly to advocate for better opportunities for citizens of her native country of Jamaica and, specifically, the inner-city community of Waterhouse in Kingston. Waterhouse is the place where “Mommy Rocket” grew up learning to survive each day and “faced tremendous poverty,” as she personally described in a previous Facebook post.
REVOLT virtually caught up with the record-breaker to discuss the Olympics, how she’s using her platform to helped underprivileged youth in her country, and the legacy she wants to leave behind for the next generation of Black athletic performers. Read the chat here!
In pursuit of your dreams as a child growing up in Kingston, what did perseverance look like to you?
Honestly, it was just surviving, doing what I could each day to survive, and watching my mother doing everything she could to make sure that I was off to school. I didn’t miss a day because she believed that this was going to be the change. And she had to make sure that she did everything to ensure that food was on the table. It didn’t matter at that time what it was. It wasn’t fancy most days, but it did its job. When I saw that, I knew that I had to survive each day to get to where I need to be in life.
Now that you’re one of the most decorated athletes in history representing your native country of Jamaica, does it mean something else to you?
Somewhat. For me right now, it’s almost as if I saw my mom, when I was younger, making sure that she was doing everything she could to survive. I’m surviving, but I also have goals and dreams that I’m trying to achieve. Even though it comes with a different impact or odds that are against you, I’m still very committed. So, it’s different. It’s chasing those dreams and making sure I’m able to achieve the things that I set out for myself — even when others have something different for you or a different opinion of what you should be doing.
You said that you’re only surviving, but I feel you are thriving too. We can’t forget that part!
I’m definitely thriving for sure because it’s not easy as a woman to do what I’m doing right now at the level of which I’m doing it because for so long, a lot of times we are told that when we get to the age of 30, that’s the time you should step away and open the door to a new generation. But, why can’t you open the door for a new generation while doing your best or what you can to achieve your success?
How does it feel to be a part of ushering a new day in women’s track and field?
It’s very exciting to compete for so long and finally see the day that women’s sprinting is at the height of heights. It’s something that’s talked about every day, and I’m so glad to be a part of that conversation and see women stepping up to the plate, and creating narratives of greatness.
We have raised the game and elevated our sport in our different events, and it feels good to have that. Hopefully, when it’s time for me to go, the history will be there, and the legacy will have been set for other young women who are coming up to understand that this is what we have created for you, and we’re hoping that you will continue to build on that.
There have been rumblings about your retirement in 2022. Is there any truth to that?
At first, I said, ‘Okay, 2022 was going to be it.’ But then, I’m running a 10.6. I’m still competing at the highest level. I’m still breaking records and still winning medals. I’m still competing, and I’m competing aggressively and making an impact. So, right now, I’m willing to see where it goes after 2022. It’s worth my time to see where this takes me. I never imagined that at 34, almost 35, I’d be running 10.6s. It’s never heard of.
To be in this position and have this purpose, I believe it’s necessary for me to continue to show other women that they, too, can break barriers. I want them to have that vision, and when they look in the mirror, they can see if it’s not today, it can be tomorrow. They, too, can have that moment and have that time — even if it hasn’t happened yet. When it comes to female athletes and their careers, many of us decide to exit because people told us it’s time when you’re still at the height of your career. But, why not continue to show what you can give to the sport?
When that time does come, what will be the next chapter for Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce?
I’m very serious about community-building because I believe that a lot of raw, untouched gems are in our communities, but they need to be uprooted, polished, and sent out. I want to make sure that I’m continuing to invest in my community. I want to make sure that I’m providing resources and opportunities for them to take that step and to get to the next level.
I’m also thinking of hosting PR and etiquette seminars for a lot of my Jamaican athletes back home in sports and looking forward to having a greater impact when it comes to athletics in my country. I’m still thinking about going back to school because I started my master’s in applied psychology, but then Zyon, my son, decided to show up, so I had to defer. That’s something that I’m looking forward to doing because I still want to be a sports or health psychologist. With the experiences I’ve learned on the track and in the classroom, hopefully, I’ll add to the legacy that we have in Jamaica. Not just in Jamaica, but globally.
How do you define success?
Success is doing things on my terms, at my own pace, and achieving in my own time. For most women, we believe that success is collective. It’s not collective. I think it’s so important that you celebrate small steps that get you to the bigger part of your journey. Celebrating the small wins and never letting anyone tell you what to celebrate. It’s okay to celebrate something that most people think is irrelevant, but it’s not irrelevant to you because it’s your personal story. It’s your journey, so start celebrating the small moments as if you just broke a world record.
We all have our go-to songs. Right now, what’s on your playlist?
I’m always listening to Maverick City because I’m a huge fan right now. I’m a big Burna Boy fan, as well. I’m currently listening to “Level Up.” And I also like Summer Walker.
The Tokyo Olympics presented many issues regarding gender equality. Although strides have been made, what needs to happen in sports to become more inclusive and accepting?
As women, we need to know what we bring to our sport, and we need to start demanding that. It’s not the time to be shy about what we need or expect because we have been in the shadows for far too long. But, it’s our coming-out party, and it’s awesome for me to see other women using their platform to enhance this message because I believe it’s a message that should continue for a long time. It shouldn’t stop. It should continue.
I’m hoping that more companies can include women in their advertising and decision-making because it’s important to know what men think, but it’s even better to know what women think. Women are dominating in so many different fields that we deserve to have that platform. We deserve to be recognized. We deserve to have other women lead us. Even though we have made strides, there is still some way to go. I’m glad the conversation has started because we, as women, must put in double the time and the effort to succeed. A man doesn’t necessarily have to do as much. I’m hoping that will be a thing of the past.
What has been social media’s role in pushing female competitiveness?
Social media can fuel you to show up and get the job done knowing people are talking about you and following you on the journey, while it can feed you on a negative side, as well. Fans will have their favorites, and they ride for that individual while being negative to the competition. So, it’s up to you to keep your edge no matter how you are perceived. Some will like your energy, and some won’t.