In a highly anticipated clash that had been brewing for two years, Sha’Carri Richardson, the American sprinting sensation, delivered an exceptional performance to establish herself as the fastest woman in the world.
At the World Athletics Championships held in Budapest, Hungary, Richardson surged ahead, leaving behind Jamaican sprinting legends Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (a five-time world champion who secured the third position) and the favored Shericka Jackson.
She completed the 100-meter final in an astonishing 10.65 seconds, clinching the gold medal and matching the fifth-fastest time in history, a record she now shares with Jackson and Marion Jones. This achievement also saw her break the championship record.
What adds a remarkable dimension to her triumph is the fact that she faced a significant setback in the semifinals earlier in the evening. A sluggish start cost her ground against Jackson and Marie-Josee Ta Lou from Ivory Coast. Rallying back, she secured the third spot, even though only the top two positions guaranteed a place in the final.
Fortunately, her time of 10.84 seconds allowed her to qualify as a non-automatic qualifier. However, this placed her in the historically less favorable lane 9. By doing so, Richardson became the first non-automatic qualifier to win gold in the 40-year history of the world championships’ 100-meter race.
A Turbulent Two Years for Sha’Carri
Emerging as a prominent sprinter during the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials, it was expected that Richardson would compete against Fraser-Pryce, Jackson, and Elaine Thompson-Herah (who didn’t qualify for this year’s Worlds) at the Tokyo Summer Games.
However, a controversial positive drug test for marijuana resulted in her exclusion from her first global championship. Richardson revealed that she used marijuana as a coping mechanism following her biological mother’s death.
Despite widespread criticism of her suspension, she took full responsibility for the violation. Consequently, she could only watch as the Jamaican trio (led by Thompson-Herah) swept the podium at the Olympics.
Upon her return from suspension, Richardson participated in the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, with high expectations of challenging the Jamaican stars. However, she finished last, while Thompson-Herah clocked a remarkable 10.54 seconds, securing the second-fastest time in history after Florence Griffith-Joyner.
Richardson’s memorable post-race interview with NBC concluded with her assertion that she wasn’t finished yet.
The year 2022 proved to be challenging for Richardson, marked by subpar performances and early exits from the U.S. trials for the 100 and 200 meters, which were qualifiers for the World Championships in Eugene.
Her failure to secure a spot on Team USA drew criticism, particularly for her initial reluctance to engage with reporters after her races. When she eventually spoke to the media, her message was a call for greater respect for athletes.
Redemption in 2023
Throughout the outdoor track season, Richardson displayed remarkable form, claiming victory twice in the 100 meters against Shericka Jackson on the Diamond League circuit leading up to the World Championships.
She sailed through the U.S. trials, securing her position in both the 100 and 200-meter events. During the 100-meter national title race in July, she joyfully removed her wig before claiming victory and told NBC’s Lewis Johnson, “I’m not just back; I’m better.”
With her triumph at the World Championships, the 23-year-old became the first American woman since the late Tori Bowie in 2017 to be crowned the 100-meter world or Olympic champion.
More Gold on the Horizon in Budapest?
The championships still offer two more chances for Richardson to add to her medal tally. The 200-meter event is set to begin, with Shericka Jackson emerging as a clear favorite, having earned the title of reigning champion and the second-fastest woman of all time.
Fellow American Gabby Thomas, who defeated Richardson in the U.S. trials, is also expected to provide formidable competition. Notably, no American woman has ever secured double sprint gold at the World Championships.
Furthermore, Richardson is scheduled to participate in the women’s 4x100m relay for the first time. This event carries added significance as the U.S. seeks a second consecutive relay victory over Jamaica in their intense rivalry.
It has taken longer than anticipated, but Sha’Carri Richardson has finally ascended to the pinnacle of the sprinting world, accomplishing this feat in an extraordinary and historic manner.
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