Sha’Carri Richardson knows the ups and downs of track life, life in the spotlight, and what it means to be a polarizing sports figure in America. The sprinter had her last meet of the season at the Zurich Diamond League 100 meters on Thursday, where she came in last to close out her season.
Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce dashed to win the women’s 100m in 10.65 seconds, claiming her fifth win in the season-ender in front of more than 25,000 fans at the Letzigrund Stadium. Fraser-Pryce was defeated by her fellow countryman Shericka Jackson in Brussels last week and got her revenge in Zurich.
For Sha’Carri, it has been a roller coaster year. Late last month, the 22-year-old came in first place in the women’s 100-meter race at the Spitzen Leichtathletik meet in Luzerne, Switzerland. On a wet track and under strong wind conditions, Richardson beat Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah by one-hundredth of a second with a time of 11.29 seconds. Thompson-Herah came in second at 11.30, and fellow American Celera Barnes came in third at 11.40.
Sha’Carri has experienced much criticism and scrutiny for her authentic Black girl charisma, and she’s only 22 years old. She is every Black person’s daughter when she makes mistakes and the world’s favorite target, whether she wins or losses. At the beginning of her popularity, Sha’Carri made international headlines after qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in the 100 meters, which was derailed from competition after testing positive for cannabis. She was given a 30-day suspension which overlapped with the Tokyo games, beginning a spiral of public shows of disappointment by the media and those resting their hopes on her professionalism.
However, the pressure mounted over time, and she became more outspoken about the treatment she and other athletes received at the highest stages of the sport.
“I’m coming to speak, not just on my behalf but on all athletes’ behalves, that when you guys do interviews, y’all should respect athletes more,” Richardson said after she failed to qualify for the women’s 200-meter first round during the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships in June.
“Y’all should understand whether they’re coming from winning, whether they’re losing, whatever the case may be. Athletes deserve way more respect than when y’all just come and throw cameras into their faces.”
After not winning an individual medal at those Championships, Richardson then refused to take any questions.
“Understand how an athlete operates and then ask your questions. Then be more understanding of the fact that they are still human, no matter just to the fact that y’all are just trying to put something out in an article to make a dollar. Thank you.”
Now in defeat, Richardson not only talked to the media after hugging Fraser-Pryce on the track post-race, but she also went live on social media ahead of it to have an existential conversation.
“What 2022 has taught me, matching (negative) energy does nothing for you. You match the energy for you; you give the energy that you know radiates you, that enlight(en)s you, that brings you closer to what it is that you have begun, a journey of walking; so changing that does not help anyone.”
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