Sha’Carri Richardson finishes last in 100-meter return
Sha’Carri Richardson sent a message before returning to the track on Saturday.
“Aug. 21,” she wrote alongside a video she posted to Instagram this week, “and I’m not playing well”.
The message was clear: weeks after a positive doping test cost his Olympic dream, Richardson was, in video and in real life, ready to race again. However, on Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., His return to competition at the Prefontaine Classic did not go as planned.
Facing a field that included the three Olympic medalists in his flagship event, the 100 meters, Richardson was beaten hard, finishing last with a time of 11.14 seconds. It was more than half a second behind the time of Tokyo gold medalist Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica.
Thompson-Herah’s compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was second and Shericka Jackson third, replicating the podium at the Tokyo Olympics. Richardson, who was running in the lane 4 place reserved for the favorite, was out of action after just a few strides.
“This past month has been a journey for me, but it’s no excuse because at the end of the day I’m an athlete,” said Richardson. “Today was a day, but it’s not every day. This is not the end of the world. And like I said, if you count me, kidding on you.
In an interview even before leaving the track, Richardson, 21, had oozed confidence after what was a pretty demoralizing performance.
“It was a race” she said. “I haven’t finished. You know what I’m capable of.
Thompson-Herah also gave insight into his abilities. Her winning time was faster than the one she ran in the Olympic final, and just five hundredths of a second off Florence Griffith Joyner’s 1988 world record of 10.49 seconds, a record that seems more and more within reach.
Richardson’s return to competition came just over two months after winning the 100-meter at the Olympic Track and Field Trials in the United States, a race many believed to be the first act of a star turn from the ‘summer. Richardson was an instant sensation – his explosive speed matched his flowing orange hair and his abundance of swagger.
But she was never able to run in Tokyo: Richardson later tested positive for marijuana and was disqualified.
Richardson said she used the drug to cope with the death of her birth mother, which she learned of earlier in June. But the consequences were severe: the violation erased her practice victory and eliminated her from qualifying for the Tokyo Games. It also resulted in a 30-day suspension from competition.
At the time, there was speculation that USA Track and Field, the governing body of sport in the United States, might try to bring him to the Olympics by including him in the 4×100-meter relay team. This race was scheduled towards the end of the Tokyo competition, once Richardson’s suspension was over.
But the rules did not allow a replacement given his disqualification, and Richardson’s agent Renaldo Nehemiah said his team had not pressured US track officials to find a way to include him. .
“We never asked to be on the relay,” Nehemiah wrote in an email in early July.
In an interview last month, Nehemiah said that after the drug violation, Richardson needed a break from the overheated spotlight his suspension had created. His fame only grew with his absence from the Games.
Nehemiah said he and Richardson decided almost immediately to target Saturday’s Préfontaine Classic for her next competition, which was held on the same track where she won practice.
In an effort to broaden his reach beyond the Tokyo Games, which she was going to miss, Richardson wrote a tweet about focusing his attention on major competitions over the next three years, including the world championships in 2022 and 2023 and the Paris Olympics in 2024.
The march towards these events began in earnest on Saturday. But his performance on the track did not match his speech.
“They haven’t finished seeing me yet,” Richardson said of his competition. “Period.”