Sha'Carri Richardson sprints onto US Olympic team after winning 100 in 10.71 seconds

Another training partner, Twanisha Terry, finished third and also earned a spot on the women's 100-meter team.
APTOPIX US Track Trials Sha'Carri Richardson
Posted at 6:29 AM, Jun 23, 2024

Two steps before she reached the finish line, Sha'Carri Richardson started pounding her chest.

She knew she had won. Anyone who doesn't see her as the sprinter to beat later this summer at the Paris Olympics should probably think again.

Richardson notched the latest stop on her "I'm Not Back, I'm Better" tour with a 10.71-second sprint in the 100 meters at U.S. track trials on Saturday that makes her the fastest woman in the world this year and officially earned her a trip to France where the women start racing Aug. 2.

The final marked the third time in this meet that Richardson did not get off to a stellar start. It also marked the third time in the meet she finished well in the clear.

She was .09 seconds ahead of training partner Melissa Jefferson, the 2022 U.S. champion. Another sprinter in coach Dennis Mitchell's camp, Twanisha Terry, finished third and also earned a spot on the women's 100-meter team.

"I feel honored," Richardson said. "I feel every chapter I've been through in my life prepared me for this moment."

A few seconds after her line-crossing celebration, she was down on a knee, clearly caught up in emotion.

"The emotion was just joy because of the hard work I put in, not just physically on the track, but mentally and emotionally to grow into the mature young lady I am today," she said.

It has been quite a ride for the 24-year-old Texan. Three years ago, she won this race, too (in 10.86 seconds), only to see the victory stripped because of a positive marijuana test that laid bare everything from her own struggles with depression to an anti-doping rulebook that hadn't changed with the times.

That's when the hard work began. What emerged, Richardson said, was a better and more in-tune person than the one who lit up this same Hayward Field back in 2021 — her orange hair flowing, looking like this sport's breakout star.

It took nearly two years for the results to show up on the track again. But she won the national championship in 2023 and declared "I'm not back, I'm better," then backed that up a month later with the world title.

"I'd say the message I'm sending out is to believe in yourself no matter what," Richardson said, echoing much the same thoughts from last year in Budapest. "You want to remain solid in yourself. Stay grounded in yourself and your hard work."

It's risky business to hand her the gold medal in Paris given the competition she'll face. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson and two-time defending champion Elaine Thompson-Herah have 19 Olympic medals between them — Richardson has never been to the games — and all are slated to run at next weekend's Jamaican trials.

A recent injury to Thompson-Herah has mixed up that math. Meanwhile, Fraser-Pryce has been a rarely seen commodity in 2024 and Jackson is the two-time world champion at 200 meters — a race Richardson finished third in at worlds and is entered in next week at trials.

Back in the U.S., the Americans are feeding off each other, and Mitchell, a huge name in sprinting in the 1990s, pulled off a rarity by placing all three of his best sprinters in the Olympics.

"The odds of getting all three is probably a point-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero-something," Mitchell said. "But those girls didn't care about those odds. They went out there and had a plan and they executed well and they deserve everything they got."

Given she bettered the season's best time despite a mediocre start and after pounding her chest and pulling up before the end of the race, it's hard to argue that Richardson is the favorite. Asked if she had a time in mind for the Olympics, she did not bite.

"I just know that if I execute and run the race I'm trained to prepare for that the time will come with it," she said.

Next up, NoahNext up, it's Noah Lyles' turn. Before Richardson took center stage, the reigning world champion at 100 meters ran his preliminary heat in 9.92 seconds, the fastest time in the first round of men's qualifying. He'll race Sunday for a spot in the Olympics.

Lyles, like Richardson, dealt with depression in the COVID-fueled days of the Tokyo Olympics. He made it to the games but took a bronze medal in the 200. The last 24 months have been about adding the 100 to his repertoire. He looked in good form in his first race this week at Hayward.

"It's been 'a long time' for a long time," Lyles said. "And I'm just so glad to be happy, glad to be out here, glad to be racing and feeling like myself."

Other tickets punched Michigan State's Health Baldwin won the decathlon to make his first Olympic team. He'll be joined by Zack Ziemek, who is on his third team, and Harrison Williams, who is also making his debut.

Jasmine Moore, Keturah Orji and Tori Franklin earned the three spots in the women's triple jump.

Shot put Ryan Crouser overcame a balky elbow to win his eighth outdoor national title. He's looking for a third straight Olympic gold medal. Joe Kovacs, who finished runner-up to Crouser at both Olympics, finished second and Payton Otterdahl came in third.

Speaking to the strength of the U.S. in the event, Crouser said "If the whole world came to trials they'd get one, maybe one, spot" in the Olympics.