Caribbean Top Guns Rule at Racers Grand Prix

Two of the biggest names in Caribbean athletics show they are working their way back to top form after being away from the track for the 2017 season. In the meantime, two others who have been burning up the track continue their dominance at the Racers Grand Prix in Jamaica.

Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

In February this year, six months after becoming a mother for the first time, Olympic and World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce swapped her “Pocket Rocket” nickname for the new “Mommy Rocket” to match her new status and promised that track fans would see her return to form as the greatest ever in the sport.

The 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion and 2009, 2013 and 2015 World champion showed she was serious after only three races this season, by winning the women’s 100m in a season’s best of 11.10 seconds at the Saturday, June 9, 2018 Racers Grand Prix in Kingston, Jamaica. In her first race at a development meet in her country, the Jamaica sprint queen clocked 11.57 and then 11.33 at the Cayman Invitational a week before the Racers meet.

Unlike her flying starts when she’s in peak form, the 31-yr-old Fraser-Pryce left the blocks behind Jamaica’s 16-year-old rising star Breanna Williams, but she quickly found her speed to take control of the race and motor away from the field. She could not be caught, not even by the fast-closing Jenna Prandine of the US, who defeated her in Cayman. Fraser-Pryce drove through the line with her signature palm punch and a face that reflected sheer focus and relaxation. Prandine was second in 11.14 and Williams third in 11.26.

“I am just taking it a race at a time and trying to improve. But I am excited about the time and I am just going to keep working and looking forward to the rest of the season,” Fraser-Pryce said with a smile in a post-race interview.

Fraser-Pryce battled a serious toe injury in the build-up to the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 and finished third in the 100m final. After running through excruciating pain in Rio, she described that feat as one of her most meaningful performances. That toe injury is finally behind her, and she is on the come-back trail in pursuit if a new personal best that would put her below 10.70secs, the national record she shares with club mate Elaine Thompson.

Grenada’s Kirani James

2012 Olympic and 2011 World champion Kirani James returned to activate competition at the Racers Grand Prix with a big statement, registering a new meet record of 44.35 seconds to win the men’s 400m.

The well-mannered Grenadian poster boy brought the stadium crowd to their feet as he entered the homestretch in third position with the fast-starting American Fred Kerley in the lead and James’ compatriot Bralon Taplin behind him. But James quickly passed Taplin and produced a late surge some 50 meters from the line to chase down Kerley and snatch victory from him on the line. Kerley clocked 44.36 while Taplin was third in 45.11.

James, however, noted he has a long way to go before he could claim to start feeling like his former self again.

“One of the goals for me and my coach was not just my performance in the race but how I felt afterwards. I still felt a little bit down afterwards, so we have to get back to training and do some more preparing so that I can get back that feeling I used to have,” he added.

James, who has a personal best of 43.74 set in 2014, has been nursing Graves’ disease for a while and missed out on the London World Championship in 2017.

His last race before the Racers Grand Prix was on April 28, 2017 at the Drakes Relay where he finished sixth in 46.21secs, his slowest time in nine years.

Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller-Uibo

While Fraser-Pryce and James are working their way back to top shape, another in-form Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas was too strong for Jamaica’s Olympic and World bronze medalist Shericka Jackson. Both women were billed as top rivals in the 200m.

Running from lane 7 with Jackson beside her on the inside, Miller-Uibo (a closer with 400m strength that Jackson also has) went out hard and came off the curve slightly ahead of Jackson and Jeneba Tarmoh of the US. With Jackson passing Tarmoh and pressing Miller 60 meters from home, Miller-Uibo began lifting her long loping strides and used her 200m speed to keep Jackson at bay and win comfortably in 22.11secs.

Her time done in a positive 0.1 mps wind is the third fastest so far this season behind her own 22.06 and the leading 22.04 by Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria.

Jackson clocked 22.62s for second place and Jamaica’s Sashalee Forbes was third in 22.86s.

Britain’s Zharnel Hughes

Racers Track Club’s Zharnel Hughes of Great Britain clocked a new world lead and personal best (pb) 9.91secs to win the men’s 100m.

With deadly top-end speed, Hughes disposed of American Noah Lyles (9.93s) and his training partner, Jamaica’s Yohan Blake (10.00s)

Before the meet, Hughes was confidence of winning and did so with only a 0.4 mps wind.
“I am feeling really good; I have to give God thanks first for making this possible and my team. My mom is in the stands, so I want to dedicate this to her and my team,” said the Anguillan native, who switched allegiance to Great Britain.

His previous pb was 10.01secs, and the previous world lead was 9.92secs. Hughes clocked a wind-aided 9.99secs at the May 19 Boston Classics, US to win over Akani Simbine of South Africa and Jamaica’s Yohan Blake.

TrackLife International
TrackLife International

Desmond Palmer is a seasoned journalist with over 20 years of experience covering Track and Field.