Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce in the womens 100m Finals at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)
After a low-key 2014, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has returned to her best this season as she hunts what would be an unprecedented third women’s 100m world crown.
The 28-year-old Jamaican sprinter, who also owns two Olympic 100m titles, was a distant fifth in her opening 100m race of the season in Shanghai but has bounced back since with 100m wins at the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Eugene, Paris and Stockholm.
As a further measure of the diminutive sprinter’s dominance, she has posted the fastest time in the world this year, a blistering 10.74 clocking in the French capital, and the joint second-fastest time with a 10.79 clocking in Kingston.
A whole cluster of quality athletes lie in wait should Fraser-Pryce falter in her bid to add to her world 100m crowns won in 2009 and 2013.
The three-pronged US challenge is headed by national champion Tori Bowie, who emerged as a world-class sprinter in 2014. The 24-year-old blitzed to a 10.81 clocking to take the national title in Eugene in June – within 0.01 of her lifetime best – and it will be interesting to see how she performs in what is her major championship debut as a sprinter.
Joining her on the US team will be English Gardner, the second-fastest woman in the world this year at 10.79. Two years ago at the 2013 World Championships, Gardner finished just 0.03 outside the medals in fourth and will be seeking a better result inside the Bird’s Nest Stadium.
The US trio is completed by unheralded 21-year-old Jasmine Todd, who proved she is no slouch by running a personal best of 10.92 to qualify.
The African challenge led by Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare and Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure. Two years ago in Moscow, Okagbare attempted an ambitious treble of the 100m, 200m and long jump. She won medals in the latter two events, but was disappointed to place sixth in the 100m and is keen to make amends in Beijing.
Ahoure, the 2013 world silver medallist, will also pose a serious threat as evinced by her trio of top-three finishes at IAAF Diamond League meetings this year and a national record of 10.81 in Eugene in May.
The lead European challenger is Dafne Schippers, who has transformed over the past two seasons from rising combined-events star into a sprint sensation.
The flying Dutchwoman showed her latent sprinting talent by securing the 100m and 200m double at last year’s European Championships and as her thrilling victory in a national record 10.92 proved at last month’s IAAF Diamond League in London, she is ready to mix it with the best.
Joining Fraser-Pryce on a gifted four-strong Jamaican team are 2007 world champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, Pan American Games champion Sherone Simpson and Natasha Morrison.
Look out also for Trinidad and Tobago’s 2011 word bronze medallist Kelly-Ann Baptiste and compatriot Michelle-Lee Ayhe.
Steve Landells for the IAAF