Sha’Carri Richardson rockets to 100m gold

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Combative American lands her first major title to see off a field of the finest quality in Budapest

There have been many question marks raised about Sha’Carri Richardson during her top-level sprinting career thus far. One thing that has never been in doubt, however, is her talent.

On Monday (August 21) in Budapest, in the first major championships of her career, the young American showcased the weaponry at her disposal to win the women’s 100m final at the World Championships.

That she did so in a championships record of 10.65, from lane nine, against a field of the very highest quality, having progressed from the semi-final as a fastest loser, was truly remarkable.

Shericka Jackson got closest to her, last year’s silver medallist repeating the feat with 10.72, while her fellow Jamaican and five-time world 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took bronze in 10.77. Britain’s 2019 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith was eighth in 11.00.

Yet no sooner had the title been decided than the confrontational, combative side to Richardson which has attracted so much attention was soon on display. Even after the race of her life, some of the queries she faced at the post-race press conference were met with prickly answers as her defences were raised.

An athlete who didn’t even make the US team for last year’s championships has found a new level of consistency in 2023 and, asked simply what differences she had made between now and then, she replied: “Obviously I didn’t make the team last year. I don’t think you had to say that, but the fact that I’m sitting here now and I am a world champion is the difference between now and then.

“I’ve stayed dedicated and focused, blocking out the noise, blocking out media and just continuing to go forward.”

(Getty)

There have indeed been trying times for the 23-year-old in her recent past. It’s four years since she announced her ability to the world, breaking the 100m and 200m world under-20 records (albeit the latter mark was never ratified) by clocking 10.75 and 22.17 at the NCAA Championships.

In 2021, the athlete who is coached by convicted doper Dennis Mitchell saw a first national title secure her place on the US team bound for the Tokyo Olympics. She never made it to Japan – ultimately being left out after testing positive for marijuana, a substance she had been smoking to help deal with the passing of her mother. She re-emerged to compete at the end of that season, but not at the same level, before a year largely to forget in 2022.

Yet, this year, she has been a force to be reckoned with right from the off and had been in impressively good form approaching these championships.

She almost didn’t get the chance to shine in the showpiece final, though. At the semi-final stage she was left in the blocks and had to rely on her incredible finishing speed to make it through as a fastest loser. That she still ran 10.84 said a great deal, though.

Perhaps inexperience on the biggest stage was proving to be a factor. Could she handle the occasion?

That semi-final performance had meant the American had to run in the very outside lane, a slight disadvantage given that she would not be able to key off the big hitters – Fraser-Pryce, Jackson and perennial challenger Marie-Joseé Ta Lou.

As Richardson admitted, though, the scale of the challenge “helped me pull out my A game”.

One of the most difficult things about watching a 100m race in the flesh is trying to simultaneously keep watch on each of the contenders. It is the sporting equivalent of everything, everywhere all at once.

The viewer’s eye does tend to be drawn towards to centre, where Fraser-Pryce had made a trademark rapid start but before being reeled in by Jackson. Suddenly, though, a blurred figure came into view and raised their arms. The defending champion even looked in surprise to her right to check. Richardson had her moment.

The dramatic tone for this contest had been set in those semi-finals. After Fraser-Pryce had sailed serenely through in heat one, then came Richardson’s dramatic recovery which reduced the margin for error in the closing qualifier.

Julien Alfred won it in 10.92 followed by Brittany Brown (10.98). Asher-Smith had looked to be in control but faded to third in 11.01, her time matching that of Ewa Swoboda – sitting in the one remaining qualifying place. The athletes’ times could not be separated, so nine would run in the final.

The Pole finished sixth in a PB of 10.97, but Asher-Smith could not hide her disappointment. “It has not been a fab day for me, I have to say,” said the British champion, with compatriot Daryll Neita having gone out a the semi-final stage. “I am very disappointed because I feel like I am in an amazing place.

“I couldn’t feel my legs [after grimacing in the semi-final], it was a bit weird, but at the end of the day, I can still run, it’s not really a problem. I am in much better shape than that so I am very disappointed.”

The day, instead, belonged to Richardson.

“I’m here. I’m the champion,” said the Texan. “I told y’all. I’m not back, I’m better.”



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