A unique style leads Fraser-Pryce to her second straight 100 title
LONDON -- The craziest thing about the final of the women's 100-meter dash was the
The buzzwords for sprinters -- who speak of their craft as controlled violence -- tend to be things like: "patient," "relaxed," "focused," "controlled." No one will ever mistakenly apply those to terms to Fraser-Pryce. Here's how the 25-year-old won her second straight Olympic 100 gold: she shot out of the blocks at an angle so low, upon replay, it was difficult to believe she actually got a foot out in time to prevent a face plant. (At a race in London last month, Fraser-Pryce did the same thing and nearly did face plant. She stumbled out of the blocks and finished last.) After the low-angle explosion, when most sprinters enter the drive phase, Fraser-Pryce entered her, well, downhill phase, where she leans so far forward that it looks as if her head is actually pulling the rest of her, and her feet are just trying to keep up. Toward the end of the race, she cocked her head back and to the side -- giving the overhead cameras, amazingly, a perfect shot of her face -- and seemed to twist her body so extremely that she came across the line with the JAMAICA on her chest practically facing the stands. She ran as if she fled a ghost; Fraser-Pryce did not blink once for 99 meters, and only shut her eyes when she made the lunging, twisting lean for the line. It was enough to beat American Carmelita Jeter by 0.03 of a second. After the race, Fraser-Pryce admitted that she hadn't exactly put on a sprint-form clinic.
"The last 30 [meters] I think my form started to break a little," she said, trafficking in understatement. "I had a side glance and I saw somebody so I leaned, which I didn't want to do. ... I didn't execute to a tee. But my coach always told me if I went out there and did my own thing, it's OK as long as I win."
Both Fraser-Pryce and Jeter -- both the top contenders -- reacted in 0.153 of a second to the gun, but it was Fraser-Pryce who shot out front, along with American Tianna Madison, a converted long jumper who always gets out fast. From there, Fraser-Pryce and Jeter were a contrast in styles. Fraser-Pryce's leaning and head-lolling with eyes wide, to Jeter's prototypical power sprint: knees and elbows flashing at right angles, calm, determined eyes and a steady head. Despite Fraser-Pryce's quick start, Jeter actually pulled just about even by midway through the race, and from there it was what good ole' British track fans would call a mad dash, capped by Fraser-Pryce's epic lean. Even so, it was close enough that both women crossed the line with stone-faced expressions and fixed their eyes on the scoreboard. When the times came up, Fraser-Pryce's stolid expression melted into a celebration as uninhibited as her stride.
She pumped a fist, jumped up and down with her yellow hair bow bouncing, and showed her impossibly wide smile -- this time without the braces she flashed in Beijing, when she was just 21. Fraser-Pryce is one of a growing list of Jamaican sprinters who decide to stay home to train, rather that take scholarships to come to America, where they are subject to the perhaps too-frequent racing of the college season. She trains with the MVP Track & Field Club on a 300-meter grass track out behind the University of Technology -- where she studied child and adolescent development -- in Kingston. The club is a home for athletes who want to stay near family, stay in warm weather -- "I don't think I could survive in cold places," Fraser-Pryce says -- and keep their familiar environs. "Being in Jamaica, I feel comfortable there," Fraser-Pryce says. "It's laughter, it's fun ... if something happens, I can just take a bus to see my family."
And it doesn't matter that the weightroom used by the club -- which counts Asafa Powell and a raft of other top Jamaicans as members -- wouldn't pass muster in a boxing gym in the South Bronx. An "eyesore," in the words of MVP coach Stephen Francis. But Francis maintains the condition on purpose because it keeps athletes hungry. And, it's home. Now home to the third women in history to win back-to-back Olympic 100 titles. In that feat, Fraser-Pryce joins only Americans Wyomia Tyus (1964 and '68) and Gail Devers ('92 and '96). When told of her place in history, Fraser-Pryce replied, in an answer only slightly less soft than four years ago: "I don't know much about the history of track and field ... I'm honored to be part of the club."
When asked how famous she is in Jamaica, Fraser-Pryce said that she is "not one of the persons who loves the limelight," but that she is constantly recognized when she goes to the supermarket. "I'm famous enough that they ask me about Usain. 'Where is Usain? Do you train with Usain?' No, we train in different camps."
And only one of them -- as of today -- has won the Olympic 100 twice in a row.