After spending a good chunk of their careers as fierce competitors, decorated US track star Allyson Felix never dreamed she would find an ally and close friend in Jamaican counterpart Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Now, united by the unforgettable journey of motherhood, the two are joined as participants in an experience that will live long after their final races on the track have been run.
On the track, most of the duels between the sprinters came as part of a fierce match-up that pit the United States against Jamaica in the 4x100m relays for almost a decade, coming face to face in 2011 (Daegu), 2012 (London) 2015 (Beijing) and 2016 (Rio).
Off the mondo track battleground, however, the two have learned to be teammates of sorts in a cause that spreads well beyond its neatly lined white borders.
In March 2017, Fraser-Pryce took time away from the sport to give birth to her first child a boy named Zyon. One year later it was Felix’s turn to collect the baton, giving birth to her daughter Camryn. The arduous journey is one rarely undertaken by female athletes at the top of their game, perhaps for fear of unknown changes to bodies primed for elite competition. For the legendary sprinters, however, the long climb back to the top of the winner’s podium has proven not just a source of unity but they hope a rallying cry for women in competitive sport.
“It’s been interesting, because we’ve been competitors for so long,” Felix told AOL.com
It’s just life that changes you at some point and both of us becoming mothers really brought us together,” Felix said of embracing the challenge motherhood alongside Fraser-Pryce.
“Whereas before, not that it wasn’t a friendly competition, but we wouldn’t really mix too much, but now we have something that brings us together, that we share in common and that gives us something to talk about,” she added.
“We’ve really been encouraging each other, and she’s been a great source of help along the way to bounce things off of and vice versa. It’s something that I never really imagined in a competitor, but it’s really cool,” she went on. “To be able to support other women, at least in my sport, I didn’t feel that when I first came in. I wanted to change that culture. Let’s celebrate one another, and let’s encourage one another!”
Fraser-Pryce returned to the top of world sprinting in spectacular fashion this year after claiming a fourth 100m title at the Doha World Championships. Felix will hope to follow suit when she bids for an appearance at next year’s Olympic Games.
Source: Kwesi Mugisa