‘It’s Game Time’: Sha’Carri Richardson Returns to Racing This Weekend Vs. All 3 Olympic Medalists


It’s impossible to know how Sha’Carri Richardson would have fared at the Tokyo Olympics had she debuted as the top American sprinter in the women’s 100 meters race.

Or is it?

This weekend, the 21-year-old Dallas native will get as close to a rematch as possible.

At the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday in Eugene, Ore., Richardson will race for the first time since she tested positive for marijuana at the U.S. track and field Olympic trials, received a 30-day suspension for the doping violation and was disqualified from the Olympic team.

At Hayward Field — in the same stadium she wowed America two weeks before her suspension became public news — Richardson will run against a 100 meters field almost identical to the group she likely would have faced in Tokyo.

There will be the three Jamaican medalists: Elaine Thompson-Herah (gold), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (silver) and Shericka Jackson (bronze). There will be three other Olympic finalists: Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou (fourth), Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambungji (sixth) and American Teahna Daniels (seventh).

And there will be the chance for Richardson — albeit on a smaller stage with Olympic redemption still three years away — to prove her bold, brash, soaring stardom would’ve contended with the best this summer.

Richardson won’t discuss her return until a pre-meet press conference Friday, agent Renaldo Nehemiah said.

The session will mark her first media interview since she told NBC’s Today show in early July that she ingested marijuana at the trials to cope with the “emotional panic” of learning about her biological mother’s death.

But Richardson hasn’t stayed quiet the last couple of months, even while half a world from her Olympic dream.

Soon after the first rounds of the 100 meters races finished in Tokyo, Richardson tweeted: “Missing me yet?”

After the final, she lauded the Jamaican sweep and “powerful, strong Black women dominating the sport.”

Richardson’s personal-best 100 meters time of 10.72 seconds, which she logged in April, would’ve ranked second in the Olympic final.

Thompson-Herah set an Olympic record with 10.61 seconds in her victory, breaking the longstanding mark of Richardson’s sprinting role model, Florence Griffith-Joyner. Fraser-Pryce, whom many expected to be Richardson’s top rival in Tokyo, finished in 10.74 seconds with Jackson (10.76) close behind.

Richardson almost assuredly missed at least another silver medal, too.

Though her suspension ended before Olympic competition started, USA Track and Field declined to include Richardson on its 4x100 relay team, which won silver — 0.43 seconds behind the Jamaicans.

But Richardson didn’t push back or protest her suspension after the news cycle settled and the outcry from celebrities, politicians and fans quieted.

And her budding stardom didn’t disappear, either.

She starred in a Beats by Dre ad that doubled as a debut of Kanye West’s new song “No Child Left Behind” and premiered during Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

She prepared to also enter the 200 meters race at the Prefontaine Classic, which will include fellow American stars Allyson Felix and Gabby Thomas (Tokyo bronze medalist).

And she posted a TikTok on Wednesday to flash her hairstyle transformation — from natural afro to extended blonde and blue waves — and new mindset before her return.

“I took some time off to rest,” Richardson mouthed in the clip, mimicking a Nicki Minaj speech. “And now it’s game time, [expletive].”

The two-month absence was rare for Richardson, who raced year-round in high school, winning eight state titles with Carter and running with DeSoto Nitro Track Club each summer. Then in 2019, she transitioned directly from her national-champion freshman year at LSU to the professional circuit.

But one stretch in Richardson’s past set precedent for a breakout after time off.

During her freshman year of high school, her youth coach and father figure, Byron Kirk, held her out of the Carter season while she healed a nagging hip injury.

Over months of their individual work together, Richardson refined her sprinting form because Kirk said she “used to run like a chicken,” trying to plant her feet down as fast as she could, rather than emphasizing the push off her back foot and extending her front leg on each stride.

She lifted weights to increase her explosivity as a 14 year old who barely measured five-feet tall because Kirk wanted her to “run like you’re six-feet tall and be as strong as if you’re trying to block a 300-pound dude who’s trying to tackle the quarterback.”

And she deepened her resolve to win after watching her peers compete and advance without her.

“When she came out of the gym and hit the track,” Kirk remembered of Richardson from her sophomore year on, “couldn’t nobody in the country beat her running.”

Could Richardson’s exclusion from the Olympics provide a similar motivation?