‘I LOVE HAIR’: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce relaxes at her hair salon, Chic Hair Ja. Photo: JEAN-PIERRE DURAND FOR THE IAAF

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WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE

Part 4: Fraser-Pryce keen to make a difference

By Kwame Laurence

Each time Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce steps on the track, she brings more to the table than her speedy pair of legs. The 27-year-old sprinter has a passion for hair, and decided to sport a pink variety at the 2013 World Championships, in Moscow, Russia.

With the hair matching her pink spikes and nail polish of the same colour, Fraser-Pryce drew a lot of attention. But while the glamour is a big attraction, her exploits on the track truly define this Jamaican.

Fraser-Pryce is a woman of substance. Her accolades provide the proof. The MVP Track Club athlete is a two-time Olympic 100 metres champion, striking gold at the 2008 Beijing Games and then successfully defending her title four years later in London.

In 2009, Fraser-Pryce captured the 100m title at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Germany, and helped her country earn 4x100m gold. Four years later, the pink-haired “Pocket Rocket” left Moscow with three gold medals. She regained her 100m title, added the 200m crown, and then anchored Jamaica to sprint relay success.

Add the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championship 60m gold medal to her already impressive list, and it’s hard to think of a woman who can match Fraser-Pryce’s sprint resume. Success did not come easily for the lady from the rough inner-city Kingston community of Waterhouse.

“I’m driven from inside and circumstances and different situations that happened in my life.”

Though she has climbed to the top, Fraser-Pryce has not eased off the gas pedal. She turns up at the UTech (University of Technology) track at 6.30 a.m. to train under the watchful eyes of MVP coach Stephen “Franno” Francis.

“Franno” watches on as the sprinters work on their starts. He has an impressive group training at UTech, including two-time Olympic men’s sprint relay champion and double World Championship gold medallist in the same event, Nesta Carter. But the coach’s prize charge is undoubtedly Fraser-Pryce.

“What has pleased me most is that she has mastered the trick of staying good. A lot of natural factors militate against staying at number one, but I think she has conquered those things and developed a mindset that keeps her where she is.

“Shelly-Ann does everything she used to do, and to a greater extent. That to me is her biggest achievement. She is not very concerned about enjoying the fruits of her success, as opposed to making sure she continues to be successful.”

Following her triple gold feat in Moscow, Fraser-Pryce, with little time to soak in the success, re-focused on the challenges ahead.

“I sat in the room and I was like ‘oh my gosh, how am I going to top this next year?’ And immediately my mind takes me back to training, hard work, going in the gym, lifting. My husband (Jason Pryce) would always say, ‘you never enjoy anything.’ And it’s true, I don’t get a chance to enjoy because I’m working.”

With the early-morning training session at UTech over, Fraser-Pryce switches her attention to the hair salon. But she does not have an appointment to put in pink hair extensions.

Chic Hair Ja is a new Kingston salon, having opened its doors on January 17. On entry, the colour pink jumps out at you. And the owner, a petite woman standing at just five-feet tall, cuts an elegant picture in her pink polo shirt.

Oh, I forgot to mention the young entrepreneur’s name. It’s a familiar one. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

“I love hair.”

But this new business enterprise is not all about glamour and fashion.

“I didn’t have to go into hair,” Fraser-Pryce explains, “but I have a passion to also create jobs. There are lots of young ladies and young men in Jamaica who leave school with degrees, and they’re sitting at home. But if I can create a business so that other persons can get employment, then I think it goes somewhere.”

Fraser-Pryce is fun to be around. Her effervescent personality draws people in, and you can’t help but be charmed by her smile and laugh.

But there’s also a serious side.

“My dream and my passion has always been helping children. That’s why I got my degree in Child and Adolescent Development. I actually want to become a child psychologist, and I want to help children that are faced with childhood disorders like dyslexia, autism, learning disabilities.”

Fraser-Pryce is not yet a child psychologist. She has found a way, however, to make a difference in the lives of young student-athletes, through the Pocket Rocket Foundation.

“I started the foundation to try to alleviate some of the stress and the problems that their families have in taking care of them.

“When I started high school in 1999 at Wolmer’s, I was privileged and blessed at the same time to have met a woman by the name of Jean Coke, then part of the Old Girls’ Association. She saw something in me that I didn’t see at all, and she started to fund my education, my books, my uniform, my lunch, everything.

“She showed me compassion and love in so many ways. And that’s where everything fuelled from. The fact that she had done that for me made me in some sense obligated to make sure I did the same thing for other student-athletes who are coming from an impoverished situation.”

Kimone Shaw was among seven Pocket Rocket Foundation scholarship recipients. The diminutive sprinter captured girls’ under-18 100m gold for Jamaica at the 2014 Carifta Games in Martinque, last weekend.

Shaw is a big fan of Fraser-Pryce. “She’s the best person ever that a young athlete can look up to,” says Shaw. “She always does everything to the best, so I’m just doing the same to make her proud.” Though the foundation was launched just last year, it is already having impact. 

Seven student-athletes have been equipped to excel, and one of them, little Kimone Shaw has been inspired to follow in the strides of her benefactor, Jamaica’s fun-loving, fast and focused Pocket Rocket.

kwame.laurence@trinidadexpress.com

EDITOR’S NOTE: Trinidad Express writer Kwame Laurence is among a select group of sports journalists chosen to be part of the latest IAAF Day in the Life series, a project featuring some of the Caribbean’s best athletes as well as other major players in the sport of track and field. Next Friday, a fire from within.

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