On this day in 2008, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would claim her first global title, leading home two of her countrywomen in a historic and unprecedented 1-2-2 sweep at the Beijing Olympics.
Prior to these Games, Fraser-Pryce, then an unmarried 23-year-old, was almost an unknown in the world of athletics. She came from a country which produced some of the greatest female sprinters, many of them – including Kerron Stewart, Sherone Simpson and Veronica Campbell-Brown – still competing at the highest level when she made her debut in her first individual global final.
Despite her meteoric rise, Fraser-Pryce had to fight tooth and nail to make that Olympic team, competing against Stewart, Simpson and Campbell-Brown who had all been part of the victorious sprint relay team four years prior.
The little-known athlete would compete at the National Trials in June, finishing second in 10.82 seconds behind Stewart (10.80 seconds) and ahead of the more fancied Simpson (10.86 seconds) and Campbell-Brown (10.88 seconds).
With the local administration’s rule guaranteeing her a spot on the team for her second-place finish, Fraser-Pryce would make her way to Beijing despite intense public calls for her to be replaced by Campbell-Brown, the reigning Olympic 200m gold and 100m bronze medallist, who just missed one of the three qualifying spots.
On the August 16, Fraser-Pryce would win her heat in 11.35 seconds, followed by an 11.06 second run to take her quarterfinal that same day.
In fact, all three Jamaicans topped their quarterfinals as Stewart won her quarterfinal in 10.98 seconds, the round’s fastest time, while Simpson took hers in 11.02 seconds.
The next day, August 17, Fraser-Pryce would make her intent known when she took the first semifinal in 11:00 seconds, ahead of Americans Muna Lee and Lauryn Williams and Simpson.
Stewart, the favourite for many, was just as convincing in her race which she won in 11:05 seconds ahead of American Torri Edwards and Jeanette Kwakye of Great Britain.
Just a few short hours later, the Jamaican trio would line up and go on to make history, not only capturing the island’s first global female Olympic 100m title, but claiming all the minor medals also.
Fraser-Pryce’s usual bullet start took her to victory in 10.78 seconds, then the second fastest Olympic 100m time for a woman, ahead of Stewart and Simpson who both clocked 10.98 seconds, performances that were unable to be separated by a photo finish and saw both receive silver medals.
Since that win, Fraser-Pryce followed up with another Olympic 100m title in 2012 and the bronze medal at Rio 2016 while battling toe injury. She is also a four-time World Champion over the distance, and arguably the greatest female sprinter in history.