Sha’Carri Richardson becomes the fastest woman in the world
The athlete has proved haters and nay-sayers wrong after winning the 100m at the World Athletic Championships in Budapest.
‘I’m not back, I’m better’. Those were the words of American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson after an explosive win at the women’s 100m final in Budapest.
Richardson — with peroxide apricot hair and lashes as long as her encrusted acrylic nails — became somewhat of an overnight sensation in 2021.
Her unapologetic on-track style and dazzling confidence charmed the sporting world and drew comparisons between Richardson and the late Florence Griffith Joyner. She quickly went on to become the face of Beats by Dre in a video teasing Kanye West’s Donda album.
Signed as a Nike athlete, Richardson was on track to compete in the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. But a doping test shattered her athletic dreams before they’d really begun.
According to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the runner tested positive for 11-nor-9-carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol — or, THC, in July 2021.
Since 2004, the USADA has insisted that cannabis remain prohibited in Olympic competition, despite growing backlash against the ban.
The most logical argument is that runners, particularly sprinters, could gain no logistical or biological advantage from taking THC. In fact it’s more likely to prohibit their performance than propel it.
Richardson publicly addressed the results shortly afterward, explaining that she had recently lost her biological mother and was smoking marijuana to cope.
The media that had ostensibly fallen in love with Richardson quickly and viscously turned on her.
At the same time Sha’Carri was banned from the Tokyo Olympics, Russian skater Kamila Valieva was allowed to compete despite testing positive for a banned drug.
‘The only difference I see [between our situations] is I’m a black young lady’ Richardson said on X (Twitter).
The media storm that followed was rampant with racist double-standards and unapologetic bullying. Richardson was forced out of the athletics limelight almost as quickly as she’d been dragged into it.
It’s no surprise, then, that Richardson’s big win at the 2023 World Athletic Championships has taken the internet by storm.
Her supporters are celebrating a well-deserved triumph and calling out the media for riding Richardson’s coat-tails. It seems the same people who tarnished her reputation in the press are keen to get back in her good graces – when it makes for a good story.
Speaking on BBC TV, American eight-time world champion Michael Johnson said: ‘This [win] is incredibly important because so much has been made of Richardson’.
‘She’s very authentic, she doesn’t make excuses. I think it’s great for the sport because she has a personality that is unmatched,’ Johnson continued.
Following the 100m, Richardson won over the internet after snubbing white media reps and choosing to speak only to Black interviewers.
‘I’m not worried about the world anymore’ Sha’Carri told NBC Sports following the race. ‘I’ve seen the world be my friend and I’ve seen the world turn on me’.
Later, Richardson addressed her Nike family in a speech outlining her ambitions for future competition. ‘The mission is NOT complete we still go the 200 next [sic]’.
Nike stood by Richardson following media backlash in 2021. Her supporters are criticising other sport figureheads for not doing the same.
While Richardson’s story has taken a joyous turn following her gold medal win, the narratives that surround her journey are a reminder that Black women face unprecedented hurdles in simply getting the public on-side.
They’re also tirelessly pitted against each other. Richardson has dodged rumours of an alleged rivalry with her Jamaican peers since she burst onto an international stage. Photos from this week’s Championships, however show affectionate rapport between Richardson and her teammates post-competition.
A talent of Sha’Carri’s calibre shouldn’t have to move mountains in order to prove herself. But a record-breaking 10.65 time at the 100m should hopefully be enough to establish her as a force to be reckoned with — and one that shows no signs of slowing down.