Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who competes tomorrow for the first time since winning the 100m in Paris in 10.74 over three weeks ago – the fastest run in the world this year – revealed ahead of the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stockholm that she may change her plans next month and defend both her 100m and 200m world titles after all.
The 28-year-old double Olympic champion, who has said all year she intended to concentrate on the 100m and the 4x100m relay at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing next month, told a press conference that her coach, Steven Francis, had indicated she could still compete at both sprints in the Bird’s Nest stadium.
“I was down to do the 100 and relay, but the 200 is still possible!” Fraser-Pryce said with a sidelong grin.
“My coach did say earlier that I was not running the 200, but last week I was in practice and he said I should do a 100, a 200 and a 250.
“I said: ‘Why am I going all that way? I’m not running 200 at the world champs?’ And he said: ‘Who says you’re not running?’ so I said: ‘You did!’ and he said: ‘I’ve changed my mind. I’m not sure.’ The thing is, I’ve already earned a spot in the 200 as champion, so I wouldn’t be taking it away from anybody else.
“The 200 for me is definitely more strategic. When I get to the start line I am thinking ‘Do I go hard for the first 50, do I go 80 per cent and then blast the last 100?”
But her answer to the question of whether she therefore felt it was more satisfying to run the longer distance was emphatic.
“No,” she said with another grin. “I like the 100!
“I didn’t come out of the blocks very well in Paris but my transition from 30 to 70 metres was the best part of my race.
“I’ve been training hard since and running some longer distances over 200m, which I don’t like. I’m looking forward to getting my racing started again tomorrow.”
Asked whether she had now grown used to being the one every other female sprinter wanted to beat, she responded: “Yes, that’s natural because I am the world and Olympic champion. But when I line up to race I don’t think of myself as that, I am just trying to execute my race. I smile when I’m at the line but deep down I am really aggressive!
“If my opponents want to bark like a dog or skip up and down, then that’s what gets them going. For them, it’s OK. I stay smiling. I tend not to worry what the person down next to me is doing because deep down I know we are all nervous.”
It is a feeling with which David Oliver, the reigning world 110m hurdles champion, concurs.
Despite having competed at top level for more than a decade, the 33-year-old admitted: “My heart is always in my throat every time I get on the start. It doesn’t matter whether it’s here or running in Gainesville, Florida, I’m always incredibly nervous when I come out onto the track.
“My first objectives this year were to win the US Championships and the Pan Am Games, and I’ve been able to do that. I’m leading in the Diamond Race at the moment, so that’s another big goal, and of course I want to defend my world title in Beijing.”
Oliver added that he had run his first sub-13 seconds time since 2011 in following home the man that was sitting alongside him, Orlando Ortega, at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris on 4 July, clocking 12.98. Ortega’s winning time of 12.94 in the French capital leads this year’s world lists.
Ortega, who turned 24 today, is in the process of transferring his allegiance from Cuba to Spain and will not be a rival Oliver will have to contend with at the World Championships next month.
Ortega eyes Rio
“I knew from beginning it would be impossible to compete in Beijing,” commented Ortega. “But I know I can compete at the Rio 2016 Games, and I am going to try for the world indoors. For now, though, my world championship is the Diamond Race; that would be my gold medal for the year.”
This would require an upset, however, given that Oliver leads with 11 points, and Ortega is back on six points along with 2011 world champion Jason Richardson and France’s European indoor 60m hurdles champion Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, both of whom are in the Stockholm field.
Meanwhile, 2014 world indoor 1500m champion Ayanleh Souleiman is planning an extra-swift outing in what will be his last big race before Beijing.
“Tomorrow I want a very fast time, 3.28, 3.27…” said the man from Djibouti, who set a personal best of 3:29.58 at last year’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco.
Souleiman, who won bronze over 800m in the last World Championships plans to double up over 800m and 1500m in Beijing. “There is a day in between the 800 and 1500 events, so it will be easier to do,” he said.
Great Britain’s Olympic, European and Commonwealth champion Greg Rutherford has a one-point lead in the long jump Diamond Race but faces strong local opposition in the form of Michel Torneus and Andreas Otterling, respectively European indoor gold and bronze medallists this year.
“I know myself from the London 2012 Games and last year’s Commonwealths in Glasgow how much having home advantage and support can give you,” said Rutherford.
Torneus commented: “After the Europeans I was highly motivated but then I got this problem with my hamstring. It keeps going away, then coming back. I’ve only done two jumps off a full approach run since the beginning of June.
“But I’ll give it 100 per cent tomorrow night and see where I land. I still have a couple of weeks left before the World Championships.”
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF