Pre Classic Media Day Highlights: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce Explains How She Ran 10.73 After a C-Section, Laura Muir Has All the Pieces Now, & More

By Jonathan Gault
June 29, 2019

SAN MATEO, Calif. — It feels a little odd to be writing this from California as opposed to Eugene, where the first 44 Prefontaine Classics were staged, but I can confirm that the elite athletes seem to have received the memo about the change of venue. Everywhere I looked at the San Mateo Marriott San Francisco Airport this afternoon, there was an Olympic or World Championship medalist.

I was a little worried, because if you go by the way the Diamond League is treating this meet, you might think it is being held 550 miles north in Eugene. The Diamond League website still has a tab for Eugene and the athlete bibs will have Eugene on them as well:

The meet will return to Eugene next year — assuming the new Hayward Field is completed on time — but it’s a little odd not to acknowledge that this year’s meet is at Stanford. When the London Diamond League switched to Glasgow for one year in 2014 to coincide with Glasgow hosting the Commonwealth Games, at least the bibs had the correct city on them.

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Geographical issues aside, I managed to speak to a bunch of the headliners for tomorrow’s meet, where topics ranged from Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce‘s cesarean section-related abdominal pain to Michael Norman‘s future ambitions in the 200 and 400 to Sha’Carri Richardson‘s dragon tattoo. Here’s what I learned.

Christian Coleman doesn’t want to talk about Noah Lyles anymore

Before I could ask my first question to Christian Coleman, he took a look at my credential and, after confirming that I was with LetsRun, told me that he would not answer any questions about Noah Lyles. I’m assuming that has something to do with the article I wrote after Coleman called out Lyles on Twitter following their race in Shanghai last month (though when I asked Coleman why he didn’t want to talk about it, he did not give me an answer).

One thing Coleman would talk about was the 200 meters. He may be running the 100 at Pre tomorrow, where he holds the world lead at 9.85 seconds, but Coleman’s last race was a 200 in Ostrava on June 20, where he ran 19.97 in his first attempt at the distance since 2017. Overall, Coleman was pleased with the effort despite finishing second to Andre De Grasse, and said that he believes he will only improve as he continues to run the event more.

“After [the race] I was super tired,” said Coleman, who led De Grasse off the turn but couldn’t hold on down the home straight. “And that’s just what comes with it. You can work hard in practice, but then once you get in the meet, it’s kind of hard to reciprocate that type of feeling and running that max velocity against the best in the world. So yeah, I was pretty tired, but I think that comes with getting more races in and running more races, that fitness will keep coming and it will get a lot more easier.”

Coleman reiterated that his plan is to attempt the 100/200 double at USAs and Worlds. The 100 is his specialty and favorite event, and because it always precedes the 200 at major championships, Coleman views the 200 as something of a risk-free bonus.

“After the 100, whatever happens in the 200 happens,” Coleman said.

Genzebe Dibaba said she is as “strong as ever”; her training situation remains cloudy

I didn’t get a chance to talk to Dibaba, the 1500-meter world record holder, as I was talking to other athletes and she was the first athlete to leave the media availability, after about 15 minutes. I spoke to some journalists who did, however. Mark Cullen of Trackerati told me that Dibaba, 28, who has already run 3:56 and 3:55 this year, told him, through a translator, that she is as “strong as ever.” Larry Eder of RunBlogRun said he asked Dibaba (again, through a translator), about who was coaching her and where she currently trains, and that she did not give a clear answer; she told him that she trains in Europe and wouldn’t say who her coach is. An article in March 2018 in The Independent said that Dibaba has been training with Hussein Shibo and Tolera Dinka since September 2017. Whether that remains true in June 2019 is unclear. Dibaba, who is running the 3k tomorrow, trained under Jama Aden when his hotel was raided in a doping raid in Spain in 2016 (Dibaba was also a guest of the hotel at the time).

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce said that no matter what happens this season, she’s “already grateful” to have returned to top form after giving birth via cesarean section

In August 2017, when she’d normally be defending her world title in the 100 meters, Jamaican sprint legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was giving birth to her son, Zion, instead. When she returned to the sport in 2018, it was not the Fraser-Pryce we were used to seeing. She broke 11 seconds in just one of her 11 races, and her season, which so often ended in global gold (five times so far), culminated instead with a 5th-place finish at the NACAC Championships. At 31, a return to the top seemed unlikely.

Yet a rejuvenated Fraser-Pryce has returned to the top, or at least very close to it, in 2019, clocking 10.88 in Kingston on June 8 — her fastest time since taking bronze at the 2016 Olympics — before ripping a 10.73 at last week’s Jamaican champs, just .03 off her personal best from 2012. She will be among the favorites to win gold at Worlds in Doha this fall.

Fraser-Pryce said that one thing that helped her return to her best was the fact that 2018 was an off year — there were no Worlds or Olympics to peak for. That allowed her to make her comeback on her own schedule, rather than rushing to get in shape for a big meet at the end of the year.

“It wasn’t any pressure to get back into running or competition, it was more taking my time to get my body to adjust and also going back to try and get my start, being explosive, working on my core,” Fraser-Pryce said. “So I had that year to kind of put things together.”

Fraser-Pryce ended up needing that year, as it took her a while to adjust to the things her body could and couldn’t do after childbirth. When she first returned to practice, 11 weeks after giving birth, she was only practicing two times a week and couldn’t do much weightlifting. Some days, her abs would be sore, a lingering effect of her c-section delivery and something that can still bother her when she pushes hard in training or races.

“I wasn’t able to do a lot of things, and I think those times were really hard,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I was contemplating, was this even going to happen?”

Fraser-Pryce said it was difficult to stay patient initially, but she eventually learned to accept that the process would take some time. Now the comeback is over, and it’s time to race. Worlds are still three months away, but Fraser-Pryce said that she’s “already grateful” to be back among the world’s best and wants to be viewed as an example for how a woman can return to the top of the sport after giving birth.

“It just takes time,” Fraser-Pryce said. “It takes a lot of effort and commitment, having the right team. So for me, it’s just an honor to be able to be doing what I am at the level I am doing it right now and just providing hope for those persons who believe that if it doesn’t happen in a year or two, then it’s never going to happen.”

Laura Muir thinks she has all the pieces now

Muir earned her first pair of global medals last year, taking silver and bronze in the 1500 and 3000 at World Indoors. Those races demonstrated her tactical improvement, and in her double European indoor gold this year, she displayed a kick that we had not seen from her before, running her last 200 of the 3k in 28.32 and her last 400 of the 1500 in 57.58.

Muir has started strongly outdoors as well, crushing a non-DL field in Stockholm before running 3:56 — her fastest time in almost three years — in Rome earlier this month.

If Muir is going to win a world title, this would seem to be the year to do it. She’s in her prime at 26, and the areas of her race that may have been weak spots in the past have been sharpened into strengths. There isn’t much left for her to improve.

“I think I’m in pretty good places now,” Muir said. “When you can run 3:56 and you’ve got good finishing speed and you’ve got good endurance, I think that’s really good…I feel like I’m an all-round really good package and it’s just a matter of executing the race well on the day.”

As good as Muir is, however, she will have plenty of competition in the 1500. She lost to Dibaba in Rome, and will have to face both Shelby Houlihan and Olympic champ Faith Kipyegon at Prefontaine on Sunday. So she’s still trying for marginal gains, and is making progress on that front as well. She’s worked on her form to improve her kick at the end of races, has a new training partner who can push her in practice in Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, and no longer has to lead a double life of veterinary student/professional athlete. Muir says that last change has helped tremendously with recovery, giving her the time to take naps and allowing her to stay off her feet in between morning and evening runs.

Meet the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Beijing 2008 was the first Olympics that Sha’Carri Richardson can remember watching. Just eight years old at the time, she was amazed by the performances of the sprinters, especially Usain Bolt, who set world records in the 100, 200, and 4x100m relay en route to three gold medals. Now she’ll face the other Jamaican hero of those Games, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, in her professional debut at Pre.

Richardson has already conjured memories of Bolt — with her premature celebration at NCAAs — and Fraser-Pryce, who, like Richardson, likes to experiment with different hair colors. One part of Richardson that is unique is the large dragon tattoo covering her left shoulder. Richardson has several tattoos, but the dragon is her favorite as she said it represents good luck, fortune, and authority — all things she believes she embodies. Thus, she is proud to sport it on her shoulder — and in the process, help generate some positive PR for a creature that isn’t always represented that way in popular culture.

“The dragon is also misunderstood and seen like a bad thing,” Richardson said. “But the dragon, like I said, the meaning behind it is actually a good thing.”

Michael Norman is leaning toward the 400 only at Worlds in 2019, but says he plans to double in the 200/400 down the line

Norman is the world leader in both the 200 (19.70) and 400 (43.45), and said that while he hasn’t had a conversation with his coaches about attempting the 200/400 double at USAs and Worlds this year, but he’s leaning against it.

“My intentions right now are just to run the 400, but things can change,” Norman said.

That’s sensible, given that Norman is 21 years old and in his first professional season and at both USAs and Worlds, he would have to race twice in one day to pull it off. Norman said he does plan to double eventually, however — and not necessarily the one you’d expect.

“In the future, doubling is definitely going to be a thing that I want to do, regardless of whether it’s the 2/4 or the 1/2,” Norman said.

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