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BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME
S.L. PRICE
October 20, 2008
After winning Jamaica's first Olympic gold medals in the 100 meters, sprinters Shelly-Ann Fraser and Usain Bolt returned to a party that is still jumping—from the slums of Kingston to the country roads in Trelawny
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October 20, 2008

Bringing It All Back Home

After winning Jamaica's first Olympic gold medals in the 100 meters, sprinters Shelly-Ann Fraser and Usain Bolt returned to a party that is still jumping—from the slums of Kingston to the country roads in Trelawny

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It's about then that we wonder what it takes, really, to get out of Waterhouse and run before billions in a stadium halfway around the world. We remember what Fraser said the first night: "I would want Mr. Dope-Man to come test me every day. I want him to test me in the morning, before I train, after I train, because I'm not hiding one thing and I'm not taking anything. I'm a nervous type of person. Whenever I do something bad I'm just going to tell you, because my conscience is going to hurt.

"I can tell you one thing about my teammates: I know we are 100 percent clean. Hard training—we are vomiting. I mean, U.S. athletes are so privileged, they get everything they want. And when it doesn't work their way, they cry. They don't understand. We have to do good with what we have here. They have to come here to live it, to see it."

An engine guns. Shanneeka hops up and down like a piston. "The truck is coming back!" she yelps, until her grandmother finally yells, "Stop that jumping!"

"That's how Shelly-Ann was," says another woman, "every day after school."

THURSDAY, SEPT. 18

WE'RE ON our way out of Kingston, off to see Usain Bolt at the other end of the country, when a sign cuts through the morning blear: CUTHBERT'S FITNESS STUDIO. Ralph jerks the wheel, we slip into the weight room, and yes, there's the 100- and 200-meter medalist from 1992, showing a client how to work her abs.

A track commentator, member of the JAAA board and a potent voice in Jamaican sprinting, Cuthbert is often held up as Exhibit A by officials warning talent against training in the U.S. In '87, after running for Texas, Cuthbert worked with American coach Chuck DeBus, who, she says, declared that only one top runner—Evelyn Ashford of the U.S.—ran clean, and that Cuthbert had to cheat to win. She left to train alone and returned to Jamaica telling everyone to be careful. In '90 the Athletics Congress banned DeBus from track and field for life for inciting athletes to use banned substances.

Still, Cuthbert isn't entirely against training in America. After all, Beijing 100-meter silver medalist Kerron Stewart won two NCAA titles for Auburn in 2007. "People are making it out like going [to the U.S.] is the worst thing," she says. "It's not. I had fun. But I was able to think for myself."

Cuthbert never considered Fraser a contender for Beijing. The sudden jump to 10.78? "If Shelly-Ann was from another country," Cuthbert says, "a bell would go off in my head: Well, what is she doing?" But Cuthbert remembered that Fraser worked with her in '07, cut out KFC and lost five pounds and much body fat in just a month. Cuthbert decided that Shelly-Ann's coach, Stephen Francis, was too "arrogant" to stoop to drugs.

Cuthbert had also grown up hearing all the biological and cultural speculation about why such a small country has such success in sprinting. Her first impulse is to say the reason is "genetic," and Bolt appears to agree. His Darwinian "main theory," he says, is that the descendants of slaves in his part of the island have superior strength and speed. Elliott says it's simply in the Jamaican character to move fast, "even when chasing women. If you don't make a conquest early in the night, forget it, man."

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