Only moments after Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce zoomed past the finish line Sunday night, she scooped up something more precious than gold.
DOHA, Qatar — Her 2-year-old son Zyon came down to the track to join her for the victory lap. What a fitting way to celebrate the Jamaican speedster’s fourth and hardest-earned 100-meter title at world championships.
“A victory for motherhood!” Fraser-Pryce said.
Sure is. And if 2019 has been the Year of the Mother in track and field, then Sunday was Mother’s Day.
Only moments before Fraser-Pryce — this time with her long hair arranged in a rainbow-pastel pastiche — blasted past the field in a season-best 10.71 seconds, new mom Allyson Felix surpassed none other than Usain Bolt with her record 12th gold medal at worlds. This one came in the brand new mixed relay, in which two men and two women team up for four trips around the track.
Felix was among the Americans who banded together in protest this summer, getting Nike to change a long-standing policy that stopped payments to pregnant athletes in this sport. Her 10-month-old daughter, Camryn, was with her at the stadium. Felix said she got goose bumps watching Fraser-Pryce cross the finish line first .12 seconds ahead of Dina Asher-Smith of Britain.
“What she’s done is amazing,” Felix said. “She’s had a hard road, too. She keeps encouraging me. Her first year wasn’t the best, but her second year, she’s better than ever. Women are amazing and she’s leading the way.”
Fraser-Pryce said she sat on her bed and cried the day she found out she was pregnant. Not too much after that, she heard people saying it might be time to quit.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” she said. “I knew how I felt and I knew I wasn’t ready to go. I had something left to do, and I stayed focused on the goal.”
And that, in many ways, has been the point of this year for her, for Felix, for any woman who has ever been told it’s over once she decides to start having kids.
Felix spent more than a decade cultivating a reputation as a classy champion, but a very private person. When she went public with her issues with Nike, it served as a tipping point to the movement begun earlier in the summer by Alysia Montano in track, and members of the U.S. women’s soccer team, who were fighting a similar battle on different turf for equal pay during their run to a World Cup victory.
All of it eventually made a difference — not only in the terms Nike was willing to rework in its endorsement contracts for elite athletes, but in the message it sent about equality.
“I think everything I went through this year it just brings it all back that it’s so much bigger than myself,” Felix said.
SHELLY ANN SPEAKS ON MOTHERHOOD DURING PRESS SONFERENCE