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Jamaica's fastest woman aims for gold at Summer Olympics

By Clare Duffy and Sopan Deb
Rock Center

She’s already one of the fastest women on the planet, but Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce hopes to make history as the fastest at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

“The thing with success is, when you get it you want it,” Fraser-Pryce told Rock Center with Brian Williams. “I think that the last couple of years have actually made me more hungry than I was, and now that I realize my potential and I realize that I can do so much … once I push myself to the limit, maybe I can do that much better.”


Fraser-Pryce, 25, won the Olympic gold medal at the 2008 summer games in Beijing, China, where she crushed her competition in the 100-meter race. Her winning time –10.78 seconds – was the fastest winning time since 1988. She was also the first Jamaican woman to win gold in the 100 meter dash.

Fraser-Pryce’s win helped Jamaica become the first country to claim all the individual sprinting gold medals since the United States in 1912. However, her success was not a foregone conclusion.

“When I got to the Olympics, I wasn’t thinking about winning a gold medal,” she said. “They were saying I should not run because I am too young, and I am new and I need more experience.”

Now, seasoning is not a question. In 2009, Fraser-Pryce won gold in Berlin at the World Track & Field Championships with a time of 10.73 and was for a short while the "World's Fastest Woman" until Carmelita Jeter of the United States ran the fastest time of the modern era in 2011 at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix with a 10.64.

The track star hopes to regain that title this summer in London.

Almost continuously flashing a bright smile, Fraser-Pryce told Rock Center that she rose from poverty on the street of Waterhouse, an inner city in Kingston, "where a lot of crime and everything bad you can think about happen there."

She became a serious track runner as a young adult while attending the University of Technology in Jamaica and credits her "strong-headed" mother as a positive presence in her life.

“What I liked about my mother was the fact that she made do with what she had,” Fraser said.

“There were times I wanted to wear nice sneakers to school but I couldn’t afford to wear [them],” she said, adding that her friends would laugh at her when she showed up at school wearing her church shoes with jeans.

“I’d be like, ‘OK,’ and I’d tell them that was the style,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I tell them it’s my style.”

To qualify for a spot on the team that will attend the Olympics, Fraser-Pryce will first battle several strong Jamaican female sprinters, including two-time Olympic 200m gold medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown. Fraser-Pryce is expected to make the team and join a strong contingent of Jamaican sprinters, all of whom are capable of winning gold.