With her long orange hair and long, multi-colored nails, Sha’Carri Richardson sprinted straight to her Olympic debut in Tokyo.
The 21-year-old won the women’s 100m at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials with a time of 10.86 seconds, bursting into the lead in the final few meters.
She immediately ran up into the stands at the new Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, for a long embrace with her grandmother, Betty Harp.
“Emotionally — unbelievable,” Richardson told NBC reporter Lewis Johnson, “the fact that I am an Olympian no matter what, a dream since I was young. Being happy is an understatement. Happy, nervous, all of those emotions.”
Though she was racing with her usual confidence, the 5-foot-1 sprinter was carrying a lot of emotion with her on the track after losing her biological mother last week.
Richardson told reporters her family dynamic is a “very, very, very confusing and sensitive topic,” but that she loves her biological mother and will pay her respect every time she steps onto the track.
Given what they have been through recently — and how Richardson’s grandmother has helped shape her — she said that the time spent holding her grandmother after the race was more exciting than winning the race itself.
“My grandmother is my heart, my grandmother is my superwoman, so to be able to have her here at the biggest meet of my life, and being able to cross the finish line and run up the steps knowing I’m an Olympian now, it just felt amazing,” Richardson said.
Richardson, whose name first became known when she won the 2019 NCAA title as a freshman in a college-record 10.75 seconds, has been a favorite for both the U.S. Olympic team and an Olympic medal since running 10.72 seconds in April — the sixth-fastest legal time in history.
She ran a wind-aided 10.64 seconds in Saturday’s semifinal.
Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist in this race, ran the year’s fastest time, 10.63 seconds, earlier this month.
Both women are chasing Florence Griffith Joyner‘s world record of 10.49 that has stood for 33 years.
“I think her energy is incredible, and obviously she has so much talent,” nine-time Olympic medalist Allyson Felix said of Richardson. “It’s really fun for all of us to be able to watch her and just see that spirit of hers.”
Felix, who will race in Sunday’s 400m final, and Richardson could meet on the track later in the meet. Both are entered in the 200m, which starts Thursday, June 24.
Whether Richardson’s hair will remain orange — which her girlfriend chose so she would stand out and be “loud and encouraging and dangerous” — for that race remains unclear. She has raced in red, orange, blonde and blue to date. One thing’s for sure, though: She already has big plans for Tokyo.
“I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve for my hair, so stay tuned,” she quipped.
Richardson will be joined in the Olympic women’s 100m by Javianne Oliver and Teahna Daniels, also first-time Olympians, who ran 10.99 and 11.03 in the final, respectively.
2016 Olympian Jenna Prandini met the Olympic standard, coming in fourth at 11.11 seconds, and will be named to the team for the 4x100m relay.
Twenty minutes prior, Valarie Allman won the women’s discus to secure a spot on her first Olympic team as well.
The former competitive dancer, whose throwing form exudes some of the grace she learned in that sport, was in a league of her own with a second-round throw of 69.92 meters.
Allman, 26, had set a meet record and season’s best of 70.01 meters, not far off her American record of 70.15.
The 2014 junior world silver medalist — who was seventh at the 2019 Worlds — will be joined in Tokyo by third-place finisher Rachel Dincoff, who was in fourth until her penultimate-round throw of 60.21 meters.
Micaela Hazlewood was second but does not currently have the Olympic standard of 63.5 meters. She must reach that by June 29, or potentially be invited via world ranking, to be on the Olympic team.
2016 Olympians Kelsey Card and Whitney Ashley were fourth and fifth, followed immediately by 2012 Olympian Gia Lewis-Smallwood.
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