Rome, ItalyJamaica’s ShellyAnn Fraser exuded the confidence expected of an Olympic 100m champion today in Rome ahead of tomorrow night’s Golden Gala in Rome, the third stop in the ÅF Golden League 2009.
Similar to her male Olympic 100m counterpart Usain Bolt, Fraser brings a bright, calm, relaxed and assured atmosphere to the often tense, tight lipped world of sprint racing.
At today’s press conference in the Sheraton Roma hotel, wearing a pink T-Shirt supporting the amusing slogan “Does this shirt make my butt look fast?” Fraser was the consummate professional, polite and talkative with a permanently beaming smile on her face which fitted well with the giggles uttered by those who had read the printed legend on her top.
From her demeanour you would imagine Fraser was an old hand at these media events but it is easy to forget that the athlete who won so comprehensively in Beijing is still only 22-years-old and prior to the 2008 season had yet to break 11 seconds for the 100m, and Rome is the first ÅF Golden League competition of her career!
Her results so far this year, even Fraser’s presence on tomorrow night’s start list as the season’s fastest sprinter, are a staggering achievement given that on 2 April she underwent an appendectomy (an operation to remove an inflamed appendix) which lost her three weeks of training.
“It was sheer frustration,” said Fraser. “I couldn’t go out of the house for two weeks during which I could only eat liquids. It felt like my stomach was swelling bigger and bigger.”
“I was so frustrated and wanted to get back on track so much that just days after I could first leave home I even went out and ran a 200m and came second (23.44 sec, Kingston, 18 April) which was a disappointment.”
Her hunger for athletics resulted four races later, with two 100s and a relay outing for Jamaica sandwiched in between, in Fraser capturing the world season lead, her 10.88 sec (-1.5m/s) run into the wind in Kingston on 27 June securing the national title. She improved a ‘little’ at 200m too, coming second the following day in 22.58sec to take two spots for the World championships in Berlin.
“My performance at the national championships was not a surprise as I was training hard before the surgery, and so after the operation I started at a high level.”
“I wanted to go much faster but was happy considering the break (in her preparations).”
But appearances are deceptive, for as calm and laid back as Fraser was in today’s conference, lurking just beneath the surface are the twitch fibres and reflexes that made her Olympic sprint champion.
Fraser was sitting the middle of the three guests on today’s top table, and as Yelena Isinbayeva to her right stretched across to pick-up the microphone the Russian pole vaulting ace knocked over a glass of water which was sitting in front of the Jamaican. There was no false start for Fraser who swiftly dodged the deluge flowing towards her lap. Dry as a bone, Fraser just laughed. Another neatly executed performance by the 10.78 / 22.15 PB sprinter.
Two nights ago in Lausanne Fraser did get wet. At the rain soaked IAAF World Athletics Tour meeting she ran 11.03 (NIL wind) beating many of the faces that she’ll see again here in Rome.
“In my hotel room yesterday,” said Fraser, “I read the start list and saw the names of the girls competing and thought, ‘It’s a World Championships final here’ in Rome.”
The one-two from the US champs, national champion Carmelita Jeter, the 2007 World bronze medallist, and Muna Lee, the 100 and 200 Beijing finalist, head up a large American sprint delegation but it’s the challenge from Jamaica’s double Beijing sprint medallist Kerron Stewart that brings the specific ÅF Golden League edge to the race, as the latter after wins in Berlin and Oslo is one of the six remaining contenders for the $1 Million Jackpot.
“We’re a team,” said Fraser. “We don’t speak about the Jackpot or any other goals we individually have, we just go out to compete. If it’s me or her (Stewart) winning we will be happy with the results.”
“I’m aiming to win and to run under 11 seconds."
"Let’s see tomorrow,” instinctively counters Fraser which, as obvious as the question had been, was as neat a verbal dodge as the deft physical side-step she had made avoiding the water a few minutes earlier.
Fraser, a confident performer on and off the track.
Chris Turner for the IAAF