Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on legacy, retirement plans, motherhood, being a ‘hot girl’


Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce dominated women’s sprinting for the last 15 years. In a recent interview, the five-time world 100m champion and eight-time Olympic medalist reflected on legacy, motherhood, retirement plans, life lessons and Black beauty.

*Edited for length and clarity.

OlympicTalk: You are one of the fastest women in the world, the Mommy Rocket herself. A lot of people see your success now but don’t understand where you came from. Can you describe what growing up in Waterhouse, Jamaica was like? 

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce: Waterhouse is a really big neighborhood in Kingston, and it was one of those places where you don’t really have a lot of positive role models. You’re stuck with seeing the influences of other individuals around you and trying to find your way as a teenager.

I lived in a group of homes in a big space called a tenement yard with my two brothers and my mom. The four of us slept on one bed. We had to adjust the way we slept — two heads at the top and two heads at the bottom — to make sure everybody could fit. My bathroom was actually outside. My mom would have to follow me outside and wait for me there as I showered to get ready for school.

A lot of people from my community went to very good schools, but a lot of them didn’t pass. For the girls, they didn’t pass third form (eighth or ninth grade) because they got pregnant. A lot of the boys didn’t survive first form (seventh grade) because they would drop out, join gangs or just skip school to smoke. It was difficult to see that your friends were getting pregnant and just having one kid after another at that age.

I had a strict mom who was really passionate about track and field. From an early age, she always told me that the sport would be my way out. She never let me go outside or talk to the boys on the street to protect me from that lifestyle. It was crazy for me to imagine a future for me as an athlete and also as a girl. I struggled with that identity growing up. Most times I didn’t even tell people at my school that I was from Waterhouse. I would take the bus and get off at a different bus stop and would lie to my friends and tell them I lived around there — which cost me a lot of money.

When I was younger I never knew I was poor. When I got to high school and saw other students getting dropped off in nice cars, and I had to take to the bus, I realized I was poor.

My mom actually sold different things on the streets. I was ashamed because sometimes she would come into school to sell to my teachers, and I would be hiding under the desk. It was difficult. You’re constantly comparing who you are and where you’re from to where your friends are from and who their parents are.

Now that I’m older, I understand clearly that she was doing the best she could with what she had. I appreciate the fact that she never really gave up. She really tried to do her best to make sure that she was steering me on the right path because it was very easy to be distracted by everything that was going on in the community.

How did you get your start in track and field, and at what point do you remember falling in love with the sport?

Fraser-Pryce: The people in my community always called me Merlene Ottey (nine-time Jamaican Olympic medalist sprinter) as a kid because I was always running. When I was about 3 or 4 years old, we had an earthquake. I remember running from the school to my house, and the place was shaking.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at 2008 Olympics

2012 Olympics (gold in 100m).

Fraser-Pryce: Let me first say that my second Olympics was when I was already aware of what’s happening in the sense that I’ve already won an Olympics and world championships. I think when I went into the 2012 Games I was relieved.

I had a lot of pressure going into that Olympic Games. I definitely felt relieved crossing that line because I wanted it so bad. I wanted to back it up to prove that I’m good and that I belong.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at London 2012 Olympic Games - Athletics - Women's 100m FinalShelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica, celebrates after winning the Gold Medal in the Women's 100m Final

2016 Olympics (bronze in 100m).

Fraser-Pryce: Disappointed but content. I had a horrible year because I was dealing with a toe injury that was really bad. I never thought I would actually make it to the national championship much less going to the Games because I couldn’t train for months. I couldn’t put my foot in my spikes. When I got to the line for the Olympics, I was like, listen, we’re just gonna do this, and whatever happens, happens. But I’m glad I was there. I fought so hard to be there, and I was grateful and content because I did all I could, but at the same time I still felt disappointed that I was not able to show up 100%. I was satisfied that I got the bronze medal.

2019 World Championships (fourth world title, 100m).

Fraser-Pryce: There’s so many words to describe that moment. I felt powerful. I felt victorious. I felt triumphant. I just felt a feeling like I could do anything, you know? This was definitely my moment.

I missed the 2017 World Championships because I was pregnant. I was so mad because I wanted to be there [in 2017] and defend my title, but there I was watching the world championships with a huge stomach, not being able to run. It was really hard for me as an athlete. I think that’s why it’s so important to know who you are as an athlete and a person. At the end of the day, track and field will have to end, and you don’t want all your worth to be in just sports because when you take it away, you’ll feel like your world has crumbled.

I was excited to welcome my son, but it was definitely a rough time for me because I wanted to compete. I was watching the world championships on the TV and screaming for my girls.

I remember doing a speaking engagement and telling the audience that 2019 was going to be the greatest comeback ever because I was determined to return to the sport. I knew it in my heart and soul that motherhood was going to be an advantage, a superpower. It was going to help me get to the next level because I was more focused. I was hungry. I had my son, and I had new motivation. I felt rejuvenated. I felt like I was ready.

I came back, and I started to work knowing that it would be a difficult comeback. I knew that I needed to have patience and to listen to my body — especially after having a C-section — and I was OK with all of that.

When I finally got to the 2019 World Championships, I was happy and excited. At the line I felt like I could do anything. I remember hearing the gun, and I took off. When I crossed that line I knew it was a victory, not just for me but for so many other women. For so many other mothers. When we were younger they told us motherhood will have to wait ’til after you stop running because it’s going to ruin your career. There’s this constant fear in your head when it comes to motherhood and starting a family, so crossing that line was a moment not just to be celebrated for me as a Jamaican woman but for an athlete, someone who became a mom after 30.

When you turn a certain age, people like to dictate what you can and can’t do. It happens with women more than it does with men. People think that when women turn 30 you’re supposed to be put on a shelf, and that it’s for us. Being able to defy all those in odds in one race was just brilliant. Having my son in that moment was equally rewarding and fulfilling. To see the very person who I thought at the time was going to end everything become the person that started everything … it was an unbelievable moment.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at 2019 World Championships

Tokyo Olympics (silver in 100m).

Fraser-Pryce: Confused. I literally didn’t know what happened because I was ready. I changed coaches, so this was my first time going to the event with a new coach. There were so many things that were going on. When I got to the line, one thing that happened differently than before was that my coach was talking to me so much about nailing my start. I usually never have a bad start. I think I was overthinking it, and I had a slight stumble on my third step and just panicked.

I ran the worst race that I could have ran, and I felt like I never gave myself the chance to compete in the best way I could. That hurt. I crossed the line, and I felt so disappointed in the moment. At the end of the day, I was still grateful that I was able to finish on the podium. It’s better to feel disappointed standing on the podium than it is off of the podium.

2022 World Championships (fifth world title, 100m).

Fraser-Pryce: Fun.

This last season I’ve had so much fun — more fun than I’ve ever had in a long time on the track. Being a consistent 10.6 runner going into the world championships was mind-blowing in itself. I never even thought that was possible and I knew that if I was able to consistently run 10.6 seconds then it means there’s still a peak to come. I didn’t want to stress myself out by thinking I needed to match that number in Oregon, I just needed and wanted to win.

Coming across the line, especially being in Oregon where a lot of Jamaicans had the opportunity to come, and the fact that the university already had the green and yellow colors in the stadium, the vibe was just right. I had fun. It was energetic. It was everything. To cross the line again with my fifth world title was definitely one of those record-breaking moments for me adding to my story and legacy of creating your own narrative and finishing on your time. Of not allowing people to dictate what you do and when you do it. If you believe in yourself, it doesn’t matter if anybody goes along with you as long as you’re willing to go the distance to prove yourself.

I definitely believe I can run 10.5, and once I run 10.5 I know 10.4 is possible. I’m chasing this legacy of outdoing myself and putting myself in a position where I can evolve and become extraordinary.

(Editor’s Note: The women’s 100m world record is 10.49, set by Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988. Fraser-Pryce’s personal best of 10.60 makes her the third-fastest woman in history.)

Ilia Malinin eyed new heights at figure skating worlds, but a jump to gold requires more


At 18 years old, Ilia Malinin already has reached immortality in figure skating for technical achievement, being the first to land a quadruple Axel jump in competition.

The self-styled “Quadg0d” already has shown the chutzpah (or hubris?) to go for the most technically difficult free skate program ever attempted at the world championships, including that quad Axel, the hardest jump anyone has tried.

It helped bring U.S. champion Malinin the world bronze medal Saturday in Saitama, Japan, where he made more history as the first to land the quad Axel at worlds.

But it already had him thinking that the way to reach the tops of both the worlds and Olympus might be to acknowledge his mortal limits.

Yes, if Malinin (288.44 points) had cleanly landed all six quads he did instead of going clean on just three of the six, it would have closed or even overcome the gap between him and repeat champion Shoma Uno of Japan (301.14) and surprise silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan (296.03), the first South Korean man to win a world medal.

That’s a big if, as no one ever has done six clean quads in a free skate.

And the energy needed for those quads, physical and mental, hurts Malinin’s chances of closing another big gap with the world leaders: the difference in their “artistic” marks, known as component scores.

Malinin’s technical scores led the field in both the short program and free skate. But his component scores were lower than at last year’s worlds, when he finished ninth, and they ranked 10th in the short program and 11th in the free this time. Uno had an 18.44-point overall advantage over Malinin in PCS, Cha a 13.47 advantage.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Chock, Bates, and a long road to gold | Results

As usual in figure skating, some of the PCS difference owes to the idea of paying your dues. After all, at his first world championships, eventual Olympic champion Nathan Chen had PCS scores only slightly better than Malinin’s, and Chen’s numbers improved substantially by the next season.

But credit Malinin for quickly grasping the reality that his current skating has a lot of rough edges on the performance side.

“I’ve noticed that it’s really hard to go for a lot of risks,” he said in answer to a press conference question about what he had learned from this competition. “Sometimes going for the risks you get really good rewards, but I think that maybe sometimes it’s OK to lower the risks and go for a lot cleaner skate. I think it will be beneficial next season to lower the standards a bit.”

So could it be “been-there, done-that” with the quad Axel? (and the talk of quints and quad-quad combinations?)

Saturday’s was his fourth clean quad Axel in seven attempts this season, but it got substantially the lowest grade of execution (0.36) of the four with positive marks. It was his opening jump in the four-minute free, and, after a stopped-in-your tracks landing, his next two quads, flip and Lutz, were both badly flawed.

And there were still some three minutes to go.

Malinin did not directly answer about letting the quad Axel go now that he has definitively proved he can do it. What he did say could be seen as hinting at it.

“With the whole components factor … it’s probably because you know, after doing a lot of these jumps, (which) are difficult jumps, it’s really hard to try to perform for the audience,” he said.

“Even though some people might enjoy jumping, and it’s one of the things I enjoy, but I also like to perform to the audience. So I think next season, I would really want to focus on this performing side.”

Chen had told me essentially the same thing for a 2017 Ice Network story (reposted last year by about his several years of ballet training. He regretted not being able to show that training more because of the program-consuming athletic demands that come with being an elite figure skater.

“When I watch my skating when I was younger, I definitely see all this balletic movement and this artistry come through,” Chen said then. “When I watch my artistry now, it’s like, ‘Yes, it’s still there,’ but at the same time, I’m so focused on the jumps, it takes away from it.”

The artistry can still be developed and displayed, as Chen showed and as prolific and proficient quad jumpers like Uno and the now retired two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan have proved.

For another perspective on how hard it is to combine both, look at the difficulty it posed for the consummate performer, Jason Brown, who had the highest PCS scores while finishing a strong fifth (280.84).

Since Brown dropped his Sisyphean attempts to do a clean quad after 26 tries (20 in a free skate), the last at the 2022 U.S. Championships, he has received the two highest international free skate scores of his career, at the 2022 Olympics and this world meet.

It meant Brown’s coming to terms with his limitations and the fact that in the sport’s current iteration, his lack of quads gives him little chance of winning a global championship medal. What he did instead was give people the chance to see the beauty of his blade work, his striking movement, his expressiveness.

He has, at 28, become an audience favorite more than ever. And the judges Saturday gave Brown six maximum PCS scores (10.0.)

“I’m so happy about today’s performance,” Brown told media in the mixed zone. “I did my best to go out there and skate my skate. And that’s what I did.”

The quadg0d is realizing that he, too, must accept limitations if he wants to achieve his goals. Ilia Malinin can’t simply jump his way onto the highest steps of the most prized podiums.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to

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Shoma Uno repeats as world figure skating champion; Ilia Malinin tries 6 quads for bronze


Japan’s Shoma Uno repeated as world figure skating champion, performing the total package of jumps and artistry immediately after 18-year-old American Ilia Malinin attempted a record-tying six quadruple jumps in his free skate to earn the bronze medal.

Uno, 25 and the leader after Thursday’s short program, prevailed with five quad attempts (one under-rotated) in Saturday’s free skate.

He finished, fell backward and lay on home ice in Saitama, soaking in a standing ovation amid a sea of Japanese flags. Japan won three of the four gold medals this week, and Uno capped it off with guts coming off a reported ankle injury.

He is the face of Japanese men’s skating after two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu retired in July and Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama missed most of this season with leg and ankle injuries.

“There were many shaky jumps today, but I’m happy I was able to get a good result despite not being in a good condition these past two weeks,” Uno said, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “I know I caused a lot of concerns to everyone around me, but I was able to pay them back and show my gratitude with my performance today.”

Silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan became the first South Korean man to win a world championships medal. Cha, a 21-year-old who was fifth at the Olympics, had to change out broken skate boots before traveling to Japan, one year after withdrawing from worlds after a 17th-place short program, citing a broken skate boot.


Malinin, ninth in his senior worlds debut last year, planned the most difficult program of jumps in figure skating history — six quads, including a quad Axel. Malinin is the only person to land a quad Axel in competition and did so again Saturday. He still finished 12.7 points behind Uno and 7.59 behind Cha.

Malinin had the top technical score (jumps, spins, step sequences) in both programs, despite an under-rotation and two other negatively graded jumps among his seven jumping passes in the free skate.

His nemesis was the artistic score, placing 10th and 11th in that category in the two programs (18.44 points behind Uno). Unsurprising for the only teen in the top 13, who is still working on that facet of his skating, much like a young Nathan Chen several years ago.

“After doing a lot of these jumps — hard, difficult jumps — it’s really hard to try to perform for the audience,” said Malinin, who entered worlds ranked second in the field by best score this season behind Uno.

Chen, who is unlikely to compete again after winning last year’s Olympics, remains the lone skater to land six fully rotated quads in one program (though not all clean). Malinin became the youngest U.S. male singles skater to win a world medal since Scott Allen in 1965. He was proud of his performance, upping the ante after previously trying five quads in free skates this season, but afterward weighed whether the risk was worth it.

“Sometimes going for the risk, you get really good rewards, but I think that maybe sometimes it’s OK to lower the risks and try not to take as much risk and go for a lot cleaner skate,” he said. “I think that’ll be beneficial to do next season is to lower the standards a bit.”

Malinin was followed by Frenchman Kévin Aymoz, who before the pandemic was the world’s third-ranked skater behind Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu, then placed ninth, 11th and 12th at the last three global championships.

Jason Brown, a two-time U.S. Olympian, was fifth in his first international competition since last year’s Olympics. He was the lone man in the top 15 to not attempt a quad, a testament to his incredible artistic skills for which he received the most points between the two programs.

“I didn’t think at the beginning of the year that I even would be competing this year, so I’m really touched to be here,” the 28-year-old said, according to the ISU. “I still want to keep going [competing] a little longer, but we’ll see. I won’t do promises.”

Earlier Saturday, Madison Chock and Evan Bates became the oldest couple to win an ice dance world title and the second set of Americans to do so. More on that here.

World championships highlights air Saturday from 8-10 p.m. ET on NBC, and the NBC Sports app.

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