This feature on Sha’Carri Richardson is from Deji Ogeyingbo. On July 16, 2023, at the Silesia Diamond League meeting, Sha’Carri dueled a difficult field, including Sharicka Jackson, and won the 10.76-10.78. Sha’Carri is undefeated at the 100m this season.
Reborn Sha’Carri Richardson comes back from the brink and is now ready to become the world champion.
“I’m not back; I’m better.” Those were the words of US Sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson after she won the women’s 100m at the US trails. It wasn’t unchartered territory for the American; she had been here two years ago at the 2021 Olympic trials. It was just rinse and repeat. Potentially there could be a different outcome in the summer as she could become the world champion in the women’s 100m.
Two years back, Richardson was on the brink of potentially destroying a career that was yet to get off the ground. She had all the ingredients to be the best in the world after she won the Olympic 100m trials at the US trials, but a positive cannabis test saw her get banned for a month and missed out on the Tokyo Olympics. She was just 21 then.
We live in an age where people get canceled at full tilt. For sportsmen and women who hug the limelight very often, it gets worse for them. Richardson was in that position. And for a sport like track and field with a storied history of athletes using performance-enhancing substances, doubts began to creep in on Richardson’s performances until then. Her results were canceled despite running 10.86s in the final, and her road to redemption began.
Richardson’s bravado, swagger, and charisma are some of the attributes that stand her out amongst her rivals, alongside her ability to question the organization of the sports made her likable by fans, and her sponsor Nike stood by her all through that period. It was the turning point. After successfully completing a counseling program, she accepted a one-month period of ineligibility and began her road to redemption afterward.
At this year’s trials, Richardson was reborn and in full display inside in Oregon; Richardson clocked a 10.71, a Personal Best and, at the time, world lead, in Thursday’s (6 July) prelim heats. Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson ran a 10.65 earlier in the day Friday at the Jamaican championships. In the final, she ran 10.82s to win the title. That was after she had run 10.75s in the final.
The times weren’t surprising, to say the least. Perhaps from a technical standpoint, her coach will look to brush up on her start, as she had the slowest reaction time in the first 10m of the race in the final. In a major competition like the world championships, the margin for errors will be very minimal, but all that can be sorted out within a few weeks.
Her road to being reborn has been arduous, and it wasn’t until this year that Richardson began to find her strides. So far this year, Richardson had clocked the fourth fastest time ever recorded in the women’s 100m event, a wind-assisted 10.57, during the Miramar Invitational meet on 8 April. Despite being ineligible for records, her impressive performances have continued throughout the 2023 season, consistently finishing below the 11-second mark. Notably, she achieved a time of 10.76 at the Doha Diamond League, now standing as the fourth fastest time worldwide this season.
Richardson followed her 100m win at the trials with a 22.18s clocking to place second behind Gabby Thomas in the 200m. A chance at t double in Budapest is genuinely possible, and patience and perseverance have been at the forefront of it all. Never have we seen her at her full best like we are witnessing now. You could chalk it down to a change in mentality on the track and focus on what really matters most. But more importantly, she’s getting the job done.
Her flashy attire and big personality will surely be the center of attraction in Budapest. This is really what track and field needs. An effervescence personality. Prior to the 100m final, she pulled off her wig and threw it on the track. It created a lot of buzz among fans who were watching. Stories like this are what make the sport thrive.
Richardson’s fierce confidence has also made her very popular on social media. With over two million Instagram followers and half a million on Twitter, she’s one of the most followed track and field athletes and was namechecked in her favorite song by Canadian rapper Drake. Her profile could be a huge boost for women’s sprints this summer.
At this year’s trials, Richardson refused to speak to the media, except for the on-track about 90 seconds interview she had with CNBC. It felt like a boycott after she talked about potentially boycotting subsequent trials due to the $8000 dollars price money given to the first-place winner.
On the track, it wouldn’t be smooth sailing for Richardson. The likes of Marie Josee Ta Lou and Jackson will have a huge say on who wins the title in Budapest. There is also the precocious upstart Julien Alfred, who has run 10.83s and could potentially throw the cat among the pigeons.
Regardless, Richardson will be seen as one of the top favorites for the gong, and her performance at this year’s US trials will further accentuate how far she has come. Her rivals should be afraid.