Published on 4 Oct 2022 5:48 pm (UK Time)
As the 2022 track season ends, we have witnessed some great performances across multiple disciplines. One of those that stands out is women’s 100 metre sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s dominant year.
The finale of the Diamond League in Zurich saw Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce close her season with another sub-10.7 seconds time in the 100 metre, securing her fifth title. This was her seventh win out of the eight finals/meets she competed in. Such an outstanding level of dominance has cemented her standing as the greatest female sprinter and arguably the greatest ever across both male and female sprinting.
Following an enthralling 2021 season, where Elaine Thompson-Herah and Fraser-Pryce, pushed each other to new heights, threatening ‘Flo Jo’s’ thirty-four-year-old World Record, many thought Thompson-Herah would continue to ascend and smash the 10.5 seconds barrier.
However, a recurrence of injuries early in the year hindered Thompson-Herah’s season. Instead, it was her Jamaican counterpart, Fraser-Pryce, who dominated 2022.
Bursting onto the scene as a 21-year-old in 2008, she has flirted with retirement in recent years, but Fraser-Pryce at 35 has continued at the highest level, when many questioned if she could ever reach the heights she had set before 2017.Embed from Getty Images
In 2017 she took a break from athletics due to the birth of her son. If that was the end of Fraser-Pryce’s career, at that point, a six-time Olympic medallist and multiple World Champion, her legend was already cast. Yet, she decided to add a new chapter to her story, aiming to send a message to mothers across the world, inspire her own son and continue to push the boundaries of the sport.
And she did so, sprinting faster than ever, winning 100 metre gold at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, attaining a silver in the 100-metres at the Tokyo Olympics, then defending her 100 metre World Champion title (fifth 100m World Championship gold of her career) at Eugene in July 2022.
Fraser-Pryce has enhanced her achievements over the past years, maintaining an unprecedented level of consistency. Over her career, she holds the record for most sub 11 times in history, in 2022 she elevated herself to another level.
Across the 11 track meets (Diamond league, World Championships and Jamaican national trials) she competed in 2022, she ran sub 10.7 seconds in seven of those races, including a world lead of 10.62. This is an outstanding record considering only four other women have run wind-legal sub 10.7 second races in track history.Embed from Getty Images
The landscape of female sprinting has never been more competitive than the present. Although injured in 2022, Thompson-Herah has run 10.54 and multiple sub-10.7 races, Shericka Jackson, Marie-Josée Ta Lou and Dina Asher-Smith are always medal threats at major championships. There is also a plethora of American sprinters, such as Aleia Hobbs, Abby Steiner and Sha’Carri Richardson, who are beginning to make their mark on the international circuit.
Yet despite the array of threats, at most meets from July to September in 2022, there wasn’t a question of who would win the race, but rather what time would Fraser-Pryce set when winning the race.
What has brought about this domination?
One of the best female starters ever, Fraser-Pryce’s explosive starts mean within the driving phase (first 30 metres), she has already developed a lead of a few metres. At just 5 foot, she utilises her explosiveness to generate a greater cycle speed (foot turnover) than her taller rivals. This means she can match their top speeds who have naturally greater stride lengths, showcased by sprinters such as Thompson-Herah and Jackson.
However, the greatest development to her package in the past two years, unlocking this sub-10.7 consistency is her improved technique in the final phases. Earlier on in her career, in the final phase of a race, where the aim is to maintain form to prevent rapid deceleration, she occasionally tightened up, losing her form, allowing others who reach their top speed later (and thus decelerate later) to catch up. An example of this is the 2011 World Championships 100 metre final, where Carmelita Jeter surged past Fraser-Pryce in the final 30-40 metres.
In contrast, upon her return in 2018, and more recently after her coaching switch in 2020, she has visibly improved this phase, referencing the addition of more endurance training to her regime. This means she remains relaxed in her form, maintaining her top speed for longer, preventing her rivals a chance of catching up. Her storming win in the recent World Championships is a great example of her refined technique.
Latter-stage improvements have also aided her 200-metre running. Over the past two years, Fraser-Pryce improved her personal best, from 22.09 set in 2012 to 21.79 in 2021, then running 21.81 to win silver at the World Championships. Her relaxed form in the final hundred metres ensures she does not fade away strongly.Embed from Getty Images
Thus the 2022 season from Diamond League meets to the World Championships, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has showcased her ever-improving package as a short-distance sprinter.
In 2023, with the hopeful return of a fully fit Elaine Thompson-Herah, improvements from Shericka Jackson, Marie-Josée Ta Lou, Dina Asher-Smith and the array of Americans, the female sprinting season will be one to savour. Will this improved competition mean Fraser-Pryce can find a new level to run under 10.6 seconds?
Based on her career so far and the past season, it would be naïve to doubt her.