Three-time Olympic champion and nine-time World Champion, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce shares her love for the community that inspired her and made her determined to pursue her sensational sprinting career.
When you win, everything happens in an instant. It's almost like you get a sudden flashback of all the work, the commitment, the sacrifice that you have made, and the time you spent dreaming of this.  In a moment, you actually start to live that dream out loud. You cross the line and it’s like you see yourself and you know that you're a champion – your dream, your faith. It’s unbelievable to see it unfold in front of you, to feel the tingling and experience that sensation, that energy; it's magical. You think of your community… My community always supported me. I remember when I was on the streets of Waterhouse, and we would be playing a game called “Stuck and Pull” where you need to sprint and free your teammates to get back to the ring. So, whenever we be playing that game, everybody wants me on their team because they're like “Shelly's fast”. And the guys on the corner would always be screaming and cheering for me. They called me “Merlene Ottey” from when I was very small. And I always remember that because I knew from that moment, whatever it was, I had their support.

A young Shelly-Ann Fraser poses for her school picture. © Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Growing up in Waterhouse was very difficult because you have so many influences that are not necessarily good, and not a lot of positive reinforcement or positive actions that you would want to follow. You find yourself in the middle of good and bad choices. So many routes you can take living in an inner city

Do I go to school, or do I stay home and hang out with my friends on the corner?

Do I stay in school and focus on education, or do I drop out of school and become pregnant or whatever? Do I turn to crime or am I going to church with my friends?

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I’m sad to say, you have a lot more bad options than good. A lot more negative reinforcement than there is positive. it's always easy to choose the wrong things. If you are in an environment that fosters it. There are not enough persons that are going to tell you, “Okay, you need to move beyond your current situation.”

My mother was like that, where she was like, “You’re not going to be in the same situation as me because you'll just be perpetuating a cycle.” My mom got pregnant, when she was young and she had, she had to raise three kids on her own. If I decided to have a kid of my own when I was a teenager, then that cycle continues. We're stagnant. We don't grow from a situation like that.

So, my mom helped me to choose the right way, even when it was difficult. I went against the norm. Not hanging on with my friends on the streets or going to the dance. Not participating in things that were not going to help me to move beyond my circumstance. And it's hard. I'm telling you it's very hard, especially if you're poor and, you find that a lot of the kids in the community, they don't have anybody to look up to.

I slept on one bed with my two brothers and my mother - four of us on one bed. Sometimes you had men walking into our yard with guns because they're participating in crime, and you just had to stay quiet. Can’t say a thing.

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29 September 2019; Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica celebrates with her son Zyon after winning the Women's 100m Final during day three of the World Athletics Championships 2019 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Do you want to continue to live in that lifestyle or that environment? No, so you try to make sure that you stay on the straight and narrow. And I'm glad that I had guidance.

Yes, I love my community because we try. They are gems. Some try and are still stuck because of their environment. I'm glad that I was able, through sport, to move beyond but to still be a part of the community.

There are young girls and boys that see me and know that “Here is Shelly-Ann and she made it out, she made something of herself.” That's why I'm so passionate about community and the work of the Pocket Rocket Foundation so that I can give back.

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When I was young, if I was seeing people in my community coming back and giving back maybe I would have drawn more inspiration, but you know, we didn't have a lot of it. And that's just the truth.

The Pocket Rocket Foundation, established by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, through fundraising and donations provides academic scholarships for young student athletes in Jamaica in all sports disciplines supporting their education alongside their athletic development. You can find out more about its work by following the link https://pocketrocketfoundation.net/

 

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