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TrackLife International

Yohan Blake, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce Talk 2014 Goals, Charity

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NEW YORK – Jamaica’s Olympic sprint double silver medalist Yohan Blake literally breezed through New York Tuesday evening en route to Manchester, England, where he contested the annual 150m straightaway road race Saturday. “I just want to run my first race internationally and show what kind of fitness I am working with,” said the World and Olympic sprint relay gold medalist and member of the world record team, as he made an appearance at a media event in Queens to launch the adidas Grand Prix meet set for June 14.

In answering questions about the status of his health and plans for 2014, Blake, who sustained a hamstring injury in 2013 that ended his season, noted that he was at a “good fitness level,” and pointed out that his coach told him he was looking his former self, which he believes spoke volumes.

Blake hoped that Manchester would serve to fine-tune him for his race in New York. On Saturday, he got an indication of his status when he posted 14.71secs for the 150m dash. He will now focus on the IAAF World Relays in The Bahamas May 24-25, where he is highly likely to run on both the 4x100m and 4x200m teams.

Blake is the second fastest man of all time over both 100m and 200m behind his compatriot and training partner Usain Bolt.

His next stop on The Americas side of the globe will be at the adidas Grand Prix Diamond League meet in New York where Jamaican and other Caribbean nationals make up an overwhelming portion of the fan base.

“It’s always fun to race in front of the Jamaican crowd,” said the 24-year-old. “They don’t get to see us run often and it’s always a passion to run in front of a good crowd that is always cheering you on …”

Humanitarian Work

But while Blake was sidelined from competition, he was able to throw himself more into humanitarian work. In reflecting on his activities during the year off from competition, the softer side of the self-named Beast emerged as he spoke about why he spends his time trying to keep kids off the street as well as motivate and keep them focused through YB Afraid, a charity Foundation he started in 2011 to support organizations and develop programs that address the overall needs of underprivileged youths. “That’s what I spent my time doing,” he said.

He believes boys are highly vulnerable without positive role models and are, therefore, more susceptible to peer pressure.

It is with such conviction that Blake gives 5% of his earnings to charity and funds Mount Olivet Boys Home in Jamaica that provides shelter, education and psychological support to 26 boys, 7-18 years old, who have been abused, neglected or have had to run away from home. The Home is licensed to house 30 and is run by the United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman.

St. Jago High School past student also heavily supports his alma mater sports program.

Later in the program, Jamaica’s sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, also slated to run in New York, called into the launch and outlined her goals for this season.

Coming of a triumphant 2014 Indoor season that saw her competing and winning at the World Indoors for the first time, Fraser-Pryce opened her outdoor season at the May 3 Jamaica International Invitational IAAF World Challenge with a 22.51secs run in the 200m, a time she rated as “very good, considering that the last time I ran was in March.”

The 27-year-old Frazer-Pryce nicknamed The Pocket Rocket said, “The season has started well and one of the priorities this year is running more 200m because I really want to break the 22 seconds barrier.” Like Blake, Fraser-Pryce will be a star attraction in New York, where she is confirmed for the 100m – her second for the year.

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Golden girl Fraser-Pryce.

When asked what color hair New Yorker should expect to see her wearing, the bubbly sprinter responded that she was now blonde, but going forward the color she wears will depend on her mood.

Before New York though, Fraser-Pryce will be participating in the World Relays, to which she is looking forward. “Relays are always very exciting,” she said, explaining that it will be a good gauge of sorts to see how solid a team Jamaica can field.

“We have a lot of young ladies who are running very well, so it will be interesting to see the team that we can put together and the times we can run. We don’t get a lot of meets to practice [together] where all the athletes are there, healthy and ready,” she said, hoping that the event will bring together “four fantastic girls to run a superb relay and see where we are, leading up to the World Championships next year and the Olympics the year after.”

Her other main goal is the Commonwealth Games in Scotland, July 23 to August 3.
Fraser-Pryce also talked about how she remains focuses in the face of the current main competition, mainly Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria, whom she rates as “a very good athlete…very strong in the last part of the race.

She further explained that “I focus on the fact that I have a very good I start – that’s my strong point – and I am also a very good finisher because I’ve been doing a lot of 200s. So when I line with her, I know she will have a strong finish; I try not focus on my weakness or any one competitor.”

The Power of Sports and Education

The sprint queen then switched gears to how she gives back to her community through her Pocket Rocket foundation geared toward student-athletes of diverse sports. She formed the Foundation last year on the basis of her belief in the power of sports and education, which athletes can use to transform themselves and the world at large.

“If you are going to tell me that it is difficult to go to school and do a sport, I can tell you I did it’” she said. “What I say to them is, what I will do is make sure your books are taken of; you don’t have to worry about going to school on a hungry stomach or where your mother is going to get the school fee or the uniform. I will take care of all that.”

Fraser-Pryce said she wants to give young students the opportunity to ensure that they leave school better than how they started.

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