Back in July 2021, U.S. women’s sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was on top of the world and seemingly poised to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympic Games as a part of Team USA, after qualifying to take part in the 100-meter dash event. But then the unthinkable happened, as my colleague Scott Hounsell wrote:
When sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson recently lost her spot in the 100-meter dash at the Tokyo Olympics due to failing a drug test, I expected to hear about the use of illegal substances or performance-enhancing drugs, not the smoking of a little weed in the wake of her mother’s death. This revelation has led to many questioning whether or not marijuana should be on the list of banned substances when tobacco and alcohol are not. Had Richardson chosen to smoke a pack of cigarettes or drown her sorrows in alcohol, no one would have been the wiser. Yet because she smoked some pot in a state where doing so is legal and subsequently tested positive for that drug, she is now suspended and prevented from participating in the Olympics in an event where she is among the dominant competitors.
The use of marijuana is not even banned across all Olympic sports as each sport has its own agreement with the IOC. Had Richardson been competing in another sport, she likely would have still been allowed to participate. Despite this unfair and ridiculous mandate, Richardson has been the consummate professional, accepting full responsibility for her decisions and humanity.
Fast-forward to August 2023, with the World Athletics Championships happening in Budapest this week. On Monday, Richardson lined up against the top female sprinters in the world for the finale of the 100-meter event. She won. Now, she can claim the title of the fastest woman in the world.
It was truly a moment of redemption for the 23-year-old athlete. And Richardson’s first thoughts in an interview after taking the gold were both humble and “grateful”:
It meant the people that [sic] are supporting me, the people that believed in me, my family, just know that hard work pays off….It feels like everything paid off, and I’m grateful.
Next, the interviewer asked her how she managed to improve on her great finish in the semi-final sprint:
My mindset. Shaking off the nerves, just knowing that I’ve done this before. And it’s just another race, not putting the pressure of world championships on it….This is what I’ve been training for, not just this season but my whole life. And I’m grateful.
Her best answer, though, came in reflecting on waiting for the scoreboard to flash with the results after the race. She explained that even before she knew she’d officially won, there was something else that was sweeter than victory:
All of them ladies that I lined up against are heavy hitters. Everybody that came into that race put their best foot forward.
So, feeling like I executed my best, not even knowing what the results was….was the biggest thing for myself.
And seeing my name, also, pop up with a “P.R.” [personal record]….It was just amazing, knowing that, literally, I put my best race forward–and I came out with a victory that we’ve been working for all season long.
But the runner’s journey at the Championships didn’t end there. On Thursday, Richardson competed in the heat for the 200-meter sprint semi-finals:
(Note: race begins at 1:25 in the clip below)
Good luck to her, and the rest of Team USA, through the World Championships!