Sha’Carri Richardson is one of the new stars set to light up the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which officially opens in exactly 30 days from today, with her sizzling speed and flamboyant personality.
FIRST OLYMPIC GAMES
The 21-year-old American sprint sensation secured her first Olympic berth with a dominant 10.86 seconds victory in the United States Olympic Trials 100m dash on June 20 – after running a wind-aided 10.64 in the semifinals – and immediately took off into the stands to share the spotlight with the most important people in her life.
Still overflowing with joy after crossing the finish line first, Richardson scaled the steps at Hayward Field, before heading straight into the waiting arms of her grandmother Betty Harp for a tight hug amid the applause of other family members, who have stood by her through thick and thin.
“My family has kept me grounded,” Richardson told the NBC’s Lewis Johnson during an emotional post-race interview. “This year has been crazy for me. Just last week I lost my biological mother, but I’m still here, I’m still choosing to pursue my dreams, still coming out here to make the family I do still have on this Earth proud.
“And the fact that nobody knows what I go through, everybody has struggles and I understand that but you’re all seeing me on this track and you all see the poker face I put on but nobody but them and my coach know what I go through on a day to day basis and I’m highly grateful.
“Without them, there would be no me, without my grandmother there would be no Sha’Carri Richardson, so my family is my everything,” said Richardson, who has come a long way from being abandoned by her mother and trying to take her own life at highschool. She has also been open about her mental health struggles.
EYES ON THE PRIZE
The last time the US won an Olympic gold in the women’s 100m was in Atlanta 1996, when Gail Devers claimed her second in a row, and Richardson, a Dallas native, is looking to change that.
Richardson, who won a national junior title in the US in 2017, turned professional in 2019 after a decorated freshman season at Louisiana State University, which saw her claim the 100m NCAA title in a record time of 10.75. She burst onto the international stage this year and currently holds the second-fastest time in the women’s 100m in the world this year with her time of 10.72 seconds in April, which is also the sixth-fastest time in history.
The women’s 100m showdown at Tokyo 2020 is already poised to be intense and thrilling with a strong line-up that also includes 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the current world leader with a time of 10.63 seconds. But Richardson has said she would not let her relative inexperience in major global competitions be an excuse – she failed to make the US team for the 2019 World Championships few weeks after turning pro.
“To be an Olympian… that was always the ultimate goal,” Richardson said. “I would tell my younger self [that] everything you’ve gone through, everything you don’t even understand, now it all pay off when you least expect it. That’s what I will go back to.”
Known for her fiery style, as her colourful flowing hair, long nails as well as her dragon tattoo suggest, Richardson is ready to make a loud statement at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Her look has drawn comparisons with the controversial 100m world record holder and three-time Olympic gold medallist Florence-Griffith Joyner, whose 10.49 has been out of reach since 1988.
“If I do have a role model in the sport of track and field it would be the legendary and amazing, one and only, Flo-Jo,” Richardson told World Athletics. “It feels amazing to be able to be a role model and have people look up to me, but I always encourage them to be themselves because being yourself is what is going to make you who you actually are.”
Source: Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam| AIPS Media