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Coco Gauff vs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce: Just Like Tennis, Are Track Stars Finally Getting the Recognition They Deserve?

Published 12/06/2023, 9:45 AM EST

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Track and field as a sport can be attributed to the beginning of the Olympics in Ancient Greece. Created to showcase an individual’s ability, the sport has been passed down centuries, rolling down a snow hill. However, with all the growing inclusion, the sport seemed to have slightly stumbled somewhere midway to the present. For today, references to Usain Bolt in casual dialogue make up most of the track and field stretch.

With the growth of stadium-engaging sports like soccer, tennis, or cricket, track and field has slipped down the popularity index. Nonetheless, it has remained persistent, working its way back up. With the stars of the field being the driving force, here’s a look into the trajectory.

Coco Gauff vs Shelly-an Fraser-Pryce: The base

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Coco and Shelly-Ann have each walked a successful path down their respective fields. While the former holds six WTA Tour singles titles, including a 2023 US Open, Shelly is widely regarded as one of the greatest sprinters of all time. However, a recent comparison by an X user shows the difference in popularity between the two. Coco Gauff, sporting 1.6 Million followers since 2018 holds a post count of 260 on Instagram. As for Shelly-an, the athletics icon holds 932K since 2013 and 111 post count.

The difference in numbers puts forth the narrative of brand-building and engagement impact. Though quite a few factors contribute to the positioning of the sport, in today’s age of social media, stars reaching out to the audience plays a role unavoidable. As the user forming the comparison stated, Let’s just say I’m ready to hop on the tennis train,” the live example backs the presence needed to pull up Tnf from other factors weighing it down.

The weighing factors

Tennis has undoubtedly held recognition for at least a decade or two in line. However, the graph remained consistent until recently. According to tennisracketball.com, there has been a 4.5% increase since 2019. This has pushed the sport’s standing to 5th with an estimated fan count of 1 billion of which 900,000 people are known to attend the Australian Open for a practical stat. The increased popularity immediately pushed the focus on the stars and recognition. But Track and Field currently finds itself in the 20th spot with an estimated 100 million following. While the former involves a lengthy unpredictable motion, the opposing nature of Track fails to pull the audience.

Also Read: Olympic Star Shericka Jackson Opens Up About Her Childhood and Its Impact on Her Career

According to enthusiasts, events lasting longer hold a chance of twists or intrigue while tracks may not majorly lean towards it. As for the opinion of Noah Lyles, the star states, “You look at our sport and we don’t even hang out with the athletes in our own sport. The big rock stars [from track & field] of our past and present don’t even hang out together.” While that may stand true, the sport isn’t all in decline.

Track and field as of 2023

According to sportseventsmediagroup.com, the World Athletics Championships in July 2022 witnessed history with 18.7 million total viewers over 10 days. As for the same event in 2023, the numbers reached a beyond-satisfactory mark. A record total of 2100 athletes from 195 countries competed in the Hungarian capital, watched by more than 400,000 ticketed spectators from 120 countries. The result produced one world record, one world U20 record, seven championship records, 11 area records, and 73 national records.

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As for social media, while Shelly-Ann might have fallen behind in comparison to Coco, she and other stars have experienced a rise as well. In July 2202, the Jamaican catered to 684,000 followers, which has now increased by over 200k. As for Neeraj Chopra, the the javelin thrower has gained 7.8 million followers while Alica Schmidt stands tall with 4.8 million, gaining 1.8 million in 17 months. To keep up with the momentum, the World Athletics is looking towards newer innovations to increase awareness by the 2028 Olympics.

A hope for track and field

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According to reports, the World Athletics has joined hands with USATF to get more people invested in the sport. One of their initiatives was to partner up with social media influencers for ‘Challenger Games,’ and invite an audience. Following that, Max Siegel, chief executive of US TnF presented a new idea of creating a ‘festival-type atmosphere,’ to tap into the audience reports LA Times. There’s no one single solution to the problem,” said Swangard, the sports marketing expert. “The media landscape for the sport is quite fragmented, and creates a challenge for people to find and view some of this stuff.” However, with USATF’s six-year plan, dubbed its “journey to gold,” Siegel aims at bringing Track and Field among the top 5 sports of the United States which stood at 8th position with 37% in 2019.

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Written by:

Shivatmika Manvi

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Edited by:

Sampurna Pal