Veteran Fraser-Pryce eyes Doha springboard to Tokyo

Saturday, May 29th, 2021 00:00 |
(L-R) Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, US sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson and Ivory Coast Marie-Josée Ta Lou race to the line during the first heat in the women’s 100m during the Diamond League athletics meeting at Gateshead International. Photo/AFP

Jamaican sprint star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce takes another step in her quest to become the first female athlete to win three Olympic 100m golds when she takes to the track for another loaded race in Friday’s Diamond League meet in Doha.

Fresh from finishing fourth in the opening elite meeting in a wet, wind-swept Gateshead last week behind world 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith, US sprint sensation Sha’Carri Richardson and Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou, Fraser-Pryce insisted that the stronger the field, the better.

“The harder the competitions are, the better I am at performing. I like a challenge, I like it when competition is hard,” said the 34-year-old, a double Olympic 100m gold medalist (2008, 2012), who also won 200m silver at the London Games and 100m bronze in Rio in 2016.

“That’s what the Diamond League is about as well. When you’re at a Diamond League you know the field is going to be good and it’s going to be solid.

“The bigger the field is, the better I perform. When you’re in a race and you’re the sole competitor that is doing well, the pressure’s not there.”

The field in the Qatari capital is not quite as loaded as Gateshead, with Richardson opting out after suffering cramps in northern England and reigning double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica also skipping the meet.

Ta Lou and Nigerian Blessing Okagbare will be present, however, along with an American trio of Javianne Oliver, Hannah Cunliffe and Kiara Parker.

“I love the opportunity to rise... and that’s what you get when the field is stacked,” said Fraser-Pryce, who has a personal best of 10.70 seconds.

“I’m really looking forward to be on the podium... and running below 10.7. That’s definitely a big dream and something I’m working hard towards.”

The Jamaican bounced back from motherhood in 2017 -- when she missed the world championships in London -- to win a remarkable fourth world gold in Doha in 2019, after previous successes in Berlin (2009), Moscow (2013) and Beijing (2015).

Giving birth to son Zyon was nothing but positive, she insisted. “Motherhood has definitely enhanced everything about who I am.

“It definitely requires a lot more sacrifice and commitment.”

Fraser-Pryce, who will head to the postponed Tokyo Olympics as one of the favourites and has said she will now retire after the 2022 world champs in Eugene, joked that being a mother had made her “a lot more mellow in terms of going to practice and looking forward to going home”.

“My priority is my son, track and field is also a priority. Trying to combine both is such a huge responsibility.”

Fraser-Pryce is one of 12 reigning world champions who will compete at the Qatar Sports Club.

Stand-out events include the women’s pole vault which reunites the world championships podium trio of neutral athlete Anzhelika Sidorova, American Sandi Morris and Greece’s Katerina Stefanidi, the reigning Olympic champion.

Arguably the highest-quality field of the night will be in the women’s triple jump, which has the top three from the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2019 Doha worlds in the field.

Reigning Olympic champion Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia is a former world champion and multiple world medallist, including bronze in 2019. She will open her summer campaign in Doha.

In-form Venezuelan Yulimar Rojas was Olympic silver medallist in Rio but took the world titles in Doha and in London in 2017.

She jumped a personal best of 15.43m in Spain last week the furthest jump in the world this year to date and the second furthest of all time -- and without doubt starts as favourite.

The men’s line-up sees American Justin Gatlin racing in the 200m, while world champion Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya goes in the 1,500m. -AFP

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