I had to look this quote up. Eleanor Roosevelt once said …”A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”
I was happy to find the quote as that is exactly how little pocket rocket Shelly-Ann Fraser can be summed up after her victory of her third World Championship medal for the 100m. It wasn’t that she was not expected to win, it was more than that. It was the hot water she was in that she threw out the window at approximately 99.1 meters. She punched her finger as if to say- take that !
It’s very easy to love Little Shelly. She is cute, she is small, a little bundle of joy that you feel you can pick up and throw over your shoulders. But the best part of her winning was her post interview, not with the help of the reporter, and her unloading of the tea bags of pressure that she undoubtedly had to carry up to this point in her career.
She did not hold back. She touched on many topics, her personal struggles at the start of the season, her disappointments, her questioning herself, her decision to focus on just one event and not two. She was anchored in her faith which she had placed in her God and her faith carried her through the hot waters of doubt and fear.
She said..” I had no idea that a little girl from Waterhouse would be where she is at now and I place all thanks to God”. She spoke eloquently on the team of people that it took to put her where she is at the top of the podium. She expressed thanks to everyone. But her most important message was simple- It is not where you are born or your place of abode, but your character of self that determines who you want to be.
It was the usual empowerment motivational speech that no politician can deliver like her because unlike them, she is living proof of the fact that what she is saying is true.
As I listened to her I could not help but think about how far women’s athletics has come in Jamaica since the days of Merlene Ottey, Juliet Cuthbert to name only two and how she has single handedly rewrote the history and the most surprising part of this story is it is done with very little fanfare.
Make no mistake about it. Despite all the talk of women empowerment in sports, we are far from equality. She stepped up to the stage in 2008 along with another famous athlete ,who happens to be Usain Bolt. The difference between them you ask? Bolt earns 10 times more than her and gets most of the ratings. Yet they both started and defeated their respective opponents at the same starting line at the 100 meters.
We know the statistics in sports and it is almost a given fact that women MUST earn less than their male counterpart. The hype of the women’s 100 m finals was far less than the male, just take a look at social media. If you really doubted this disparity then ask yourself was Half Way Tree ram jam solid as much as the day before when Bolt won his race? Look at sponsorship deals, commercials, books, documentaries, whatever you want to choose, our female athletes get less, period.
Yes, the disparity is clear and sadly no one is doing anything about it, except Shelly. It has been 7 years of shouldering this burden as if she had to constantly prove herself not for recognition but for sheer equality; equality of status, equality of ability and equality of resources despite the gender.
The JAAA, the IAAF and even our government that showered gifts on our athletes are all in agreement that yes Equality may perhaps be a right. But these same powers cannot turn it into a fact. Shelly attempted to begin the conversation and punched that fact at the finishing line.
Shelly is an equal part of the Beijing magic as much as Bolt. Bolt is the record holder in his event, but what makes them equal is the accomplishments they both have secured, back to back to back gold medalist in an event at the highest level in their sport. Bolt has received his accolades. Sadly we are still lining up the marching band for Shelly.