Two years ago, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce went into labor while watching the women’s 100m final at the world championships. On Sunday, at the next edition of the biennial worlds, she became the first mom to win an Olympic or world 100m title in 24 years and the oldest woman (mother or not) to do it at age 32.
Fraser-Pryce and Allyson Felix made it an unforgettable night for athlete moms, each earning record-breaking gold medals in Doha.
Fraser-Pryce, a 32-year-old Jamaican with Superman ice cream-colored hair, became the oldest woman to win an Olympic or world 100m title, two years after having her first child, Zyon.
“The females keep showing up,” Fraser-Pryce said on the BBC while holding Zyon across her chest. “Hoping that I can give inspiration to all the women who are thinking about starting a family or currently starting a family and wondering if they can come back.”
Fraser-Pryce, up to six combined Olympic and world 100m titles, became the first mom to win the sport’s marquee sprint at an Olympics or worlds since Gwen Torrence in 1995. She clocked 10.71 seconds, fastest time in the world this year, beating Brit Dina Asher-Smith by .12. Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou took bronze.
Rio gold medalist Elaine Thompson was fourth, losing a 100m final to her countrywoman for the first time.
It was in Rio that Fraser-Pryce took bronze in the 100m with an injured toe, after golds in 2008 and 2012. There was reason to doubt if she could remain a podium finisher going into her 30s. And that was before pregnancy meant she would take 20 months before her next meet in 2018.
“When I found out I was pregnant, I was sitting on my bed for like two hours, and I didn’t go to practice in the morning because I didn’t know what to do,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I made a vow that I was coming back.”
On Aug. 6, 2017, Fraser-Pryce watched the world women’s 100m final on TV. “I remember sitting there, and I went into labor because I was watching the race,” she said. “So I had my son the next day, like in the evening during the medal [ceremony]. So that was my gold medal.”
Zyon came via C-section on Aug. 7, 2017. Fraser-Pryce went three or four months before lifting a weight. Once she returned to the track, she skipped practices here or there due to pain.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything else,” she said. “Because it has definitely made me tougher, and stronger and more committed.”
In her first meet back in 2018, Fraser-Pryce clocked 11.52 seconds, eight tenths off her best. She raced eight times before breaking 11 again, all while breastfeeding for the first 15 months.
This year, she’s run in the 10.7s a total of four times, becoming the fastest mom in history. Her coach told her earlier that she’s still not all the way back.
“Zyon has been my strength, my family, my husband, they have been my strength,” she said. “When everybody else doubted, they never did.”
The U.S. failed to put a woman in the top four at a worlds for the first time in history. National champion Teahna Daniels was seventh.
Defending champion Tori Bowie withdrew before the semifinals after struggling coming back from injury and dealing with a coaching change. Fellow Rio Olympian English Gardner pulled up with a leg injury in her semifinal, her latest poor luck with health. It’s very possible the U.S. could also miss the medals in the 200m and 400m, too, unprecedented for the world’s greatest track nation.
At least there is Felix.
At 33, she broke her tie with Usain Bolt for the most world titles, grabbing her 12th overall and first as a mom as part of the first mixed-gender 4x400m relay. More on that here.
Felix said she has spoken a lot with Fraser-Pryce.
“I got goosebumps watching her run,” she said. “She’s had a hard road, too, and really keeps encouraging me. Her first year wasn’t the best, but the second year, I mean, she’s better than ever. … She’s leading the way.”
In other events, American Christian Taylor earned his fourth world title in the triple jump, adding to his two Olympic golds.
Taylor fouled his first two jumps, registered a clean one on his third to stay alive and then posted the two best marks of 17.86 and 17.92 meters. Taylor relegated countryman Will Claye to silver and a lower podium spot for a sixth time. Claye owns seven total Olympic or world silver or bronze medals, but no golds.
Russian pole vaulter Anzehlika Sidorova cleared 4.95 meters on her third attempt to relegate American Sandi Morris to her third straight silver medal at a global outdoor championship. Sidorova will hear the IAAF anthem at her medal ceremony since Russia is still banned from sending teams to international track and field meets for its doping problems.
In semifinals, American contenders Donavan Brazier and Clayton Murphy advanced to Tuesday’s final. That final will lack two-time Olympic champion and world-record holder David Rudisha (out the last two years, partly due to injury), the defending world champion Pierre-Ambroise Bosse of France and the fastest man this year, Botswana’s Nijel Amos (Achilles).
Brazier, third-fastest in the world this year, won his semifinal in 1:44.87. Murphy, the Rio Olympic bronze medalist, advanced as a time qualifier after placing third in his semifinal in 1:44.48.
The 200m favorite Noah Lyles cruised in his world championships debut, easing up to take second in his first-round heat in 20.26 seconds and advancing to Monday’s semifinals. He ran in silver hair as an homage to Dragon Ball Z character Goku, whose hair turns silver at his final stage, Ultra Instinct.
Lyles owns the world’s fastest time this year — 19.50 seconds — which is .23 faster than anybody else in the field has clocked in 2019.
NBC Olympics senior researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report from Doha.
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