Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (left) and Allyson Felix (right) have a total of 15 Olympic and 29 World Championship medals to their credit.
It’s a feeling you can’t explain until you’ve experienced it. People talk about it, but it’s pretty wild and crazy.
That’s how Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price, two-time Olympic champion in the 100 meters, describes her path to the podium.
But these words could also describe one of the other great achievements of her life: motherhood.
The 34-year-old Jamaican won her fourth world title in the 100 metres in 2019 after quitting the sport for two years to have her son Zion.
Fraser Price is currently going for Olympic glory in Tokyo, and she’s not the only athlete balancing training and parenthood.
Accompanied by six-time Olympic gold medalist Allison Felix, Fraser Price talked about motherhood, gender inequality in athletics and living with the postponement of the Tokyo Games in an episode of the podcast The Conversation.
Here are some of the best words of wisdom they shared.
I can’t remember a time when all I had to do was exercise – thanks to motherhood.
Felix, a 35-year-old American, became the most successful athlete in World Cup history in 2019 by winning two gold medals in the Doha relays, but it was 12 months earlier that she changed her life for the better.
In November 2018, Felix gave birth to their daughter Camryn via emergency C-section after she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, which could have been fatal for both of them.
Felix and Camryn at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, where Felix won two World Cup gold medals.
Camryn was released from intensive care a month later, but the following year Felix took over Nike’s sponsorship of Motherboard.
In May 2019, she wrote to the New York Times that Nike wanted to pay her 70% less after she became a mother. Three months later, the brand changed its stance.
Felix has also worked to bring attention to the problem of maternal mortality among black women. With the combination of sports, motherhood and physical activity, it is understandable that she feels she does not have enough hours in the day.
The hardest part about being an adult athlete is that there are real obligations in life, she says.
I’m a mother. I can’t even remember a time when all I had to do was train. It baffles me that there was a period of time when I was exercising, resting, etc., and couldn’t do that.
It should be great. Right now it’s training to be a mom and not getting enough rest. I’m sure many other people can relate to this. This job is no different.
Felix explains that having a child didn’t mean his career was over – but Fraser-Price always planned to keep his family together for life after athletics.
Jamaica was preparing to defend its world title in the 100 metres in 2017 when it fell very ill.
Zion was in the stadium when Fraser-Pryce won the 2019 world gold in the 100 meters.
Pregnancy was the last thing on my mind, she says. After a few tests, I found out I was pregnant. I stayed home for two days.
I was shocked, because I really thought I would have to quit athletics before I could start a family.
Fraser Price describes his son Zion as a blessing and says the three-year-old runs the household.
They still need to get an education and find creative ways to find work, she adds. It’s very difficult to do that with a three-year-old.
The gap is closing, but not fast enough – through sexism
Felix has already moved female athletes who take the time to have children, but she says female and male athletes are far from equal.
Both she and Fraser Price acknowledge that female athletes are under particular pressure, not only to perform, but also to look good.
Felix also believes that it is harder to close the pay gap between female and male athletes because it is not common to openly say how much someone earns.
Sometimes we see disproportionality differently, she adds. I think it’s in place, but I think there’s a lot of work to be done to get to a point where we can change that.
Whether it’s the focus on individual athletes or the impact, we find that we are far from balanced.
Dr. Fraser-Price agreed that the gap is large and added that it is narrowing, but not fast enough.
I need to touch up my eyebrows, my lipstick, because that’s how I need to see you, she says.
As a woman, you want to feel that this is not the only way to get attention. We need to attract attention by the way we do things.
How hard is it for a woman to get up every day and do this work. To go to the mirror and say, okay, I’m still not good enough. I need to do more.
A man can wear the same shirt for a whole week and go running, and that’s a big deal.
Our goals will not be cancelled – if the Olympics are postponed
The Tokyo Olympics were scheduled for 2020, but were postponed to 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic in July this year.
Earlier this month, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said the emergence of the virus meant he was not sure the Games would go ahead.
Felix acknowledges that so many people around the world have suffered losses from the pandemic, but she says she had to grieve the postponement of the Olympics last year.
She remembers all that was put into it and all the sacrifices that were made to get the chance to be part of the Olympic team and then the reality of training during a pandemic.
She goes on to say: I live in Los Angeles, and there are very few establishments that are open. We practice outside. It wasn’t easy to see us stay at the highest level and keep hope.
Our goals are not cancelled, but they are realized in a different way.
For both athletes, this will be their last Olympics, and Fraser Price says age was a factor in their reaction to the postponement of the Games.
She says she’s not getting any younger, but she’s confident her age won’t stop her from achieving her goals, as she wants to compete in the 100 and 200 meters in Tokyo.
If I come back with my son and I can be on stage, my age will not stop me, it will continue.
I’m probably older than most women in the race, but so what? I’m just concentrating on work and happiness.