Jamaica’s Pocket Rocket shares the reason for both her sprinting success and happiness
world and Olympic 100 metres champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce had every reason to smile as she prepared for her first ever Commonwealth Games in August 2014.
Nicknamed the 'Pocket Rocket' for her small stature and dynamite sprint, Shelly-Ann was named the 2013 IAAF Women's World Athlete of the Year after becoming the first female sprinter to win gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m in a single world championship.
After winning the women's 60m gold at the World Indoor Championships in Poland 2014, Jamaican-born Shelly-Ann was Australia's main competition heading into the Games at the end of July 2014.
Her chances of coming home with a medal were strong, but Shelly-Ann said even if things went wrong, she could still walk away smiling.
"I am always smiling and laughing because God has said He is always with me, no matter what," Shelly-Ann says.
"Whether I win or lose it doesn't matter, at the end of the day, because my talent is a gift from Him. And when I cross the line I am still smiling, because whatever happens in our life God uses it for good."
Her strong faith in God began when she accepted Jesus Christ into her life as her Lord and Saviour at age 12 but admits that she went off-track in high school, wanting to "fit into the crowd".
"In 2008 I went to the Olympics and won, and everything I had asked God for, and prayed about, I had achieved," she recalls.
"I had money and everything I really wanted but I wasn't contented, I wasn't happy. I knew something was missing, and I decided that it was time for me to go back to church and start really living for Christ."
Looking back now, Shelly-Ann says it was difficult because "there are so many things to distract you when you really want to put God first" but adds that it was the best decision she ever made.
"A lot of people talk about God; but to be a Christian you have to really know and see God for yourself," she explains.
"Nobody can force you. It's not about just believing in God or going to church. I know Him for myself, and that makes me an even stronger believer in Him.
"Whether we win or lose, we are doing it for Him," she says. "You don't pray to win – I'm sure God wants us all to win, but that's not going to work!"
Asked how she copes with disappointment and injury, the champion explains: "Before when I used to get injured I would cry and ask why this should happen, but now I believe that God uses even this for His purpose.
"So when injuries come I look at it differently – maybe I need some rest, or maybe He's testing me [in my faith] – but one thing I've always known is that, even in my disappointment and pain, He's still there no matter what."
She adds that pushing her body to the limit is just part of her sport and that just because she is a Christian does not mean she is immune from injuries.
The Bible says there's a time for everything, and there'll be a time when I'm on top and a time when my competitors are on top.
"On the day when I don't win something I'm still grateful for what I've accomplished, because there are lots of people who will never have the privilege of doing what I have done."
Now that she's at the top of her sport and has success and money, why does she need Jesus anymore?
She answers unhesitatingly: "With Him I can have 'a peace that passes all understanding' (as in the Bible Philippians 4:7), and that's what I am striving for and I didn't have before. I had everything before but I was missing this peace, which I finally have now.
"I'm happy because I'm not striving after the things of this world but the things of Christ, because at the end of the day that's the ultimate for me. He has blessed me to be able to do the things I am doing now, so I am able to help others in many ways."
Shelly-Ann says she has also learned to be content with what she has.
"When you die you can't take it with you, so I like to give. That's my real motivation to work hard and train hard, because when I win the medal and get the money I am able to help more people." •