BUDAPEST, Hungary — American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, whose Tokyo Olympic dreams were dashed after a positive marijuana test, won the 100-meter world title Monday night, loudly asserting herself as a Paris 2024 medal contender.
The 23-year-old gobbled up the track in a blazing, personal-best 10.65 seconds at the 2023 World Athletics Championships, at the National Athletics Centre.
Richardson’s win was a stunning upset of dominant Jamaican sprinters Shericka Jackson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who finished second and third, respectively.
“I’m honored, I’m blessed, I had great competition, (which) pulled the best out of me, and I’m just honored to leave with a gold medal,” she told reporters after the race.
Richardson said she won’t rest on the laurels of her world title and promised to keep working and improving.
“I’m going to stay humble,” she said. “I’m not back, I’m better and I’ll continue to be better.”
Richardson’s appearance in the 100-meter final was also a dramatic accomplishment as she finished third in her semifinal heat, failing to grab one of two automatic spots to compete for the title.
Richardson broke slowly out of the blocks and veered slightly to the right in opening steps, costing herself time. But she closed well, and her 10.84 in the semis was the best of anyone not in the top two, earning her a spot in the final.
“She was more than capable of running 10.65, we knew that,” said her agent Renaldo Nehemiah, himself a former world class sprinter and hurdler. “We just knew that running it on the biggest stage in the world is a lot harder than just saying it.”
Monday night’s marked a major turnaround for Richardson, who failed to advance out of the 100-meter heats in last year’s U.S. Track and Field Championships.
“I’m just so proud of her because a year ago we were light years away from a full package of being able to compete at this level and she’s put in the work,” Nehemiah said.
In 2021, Richardson had appeared to punch her ticket to the Covid-delayed Tokyo Games after winning the women’s 100-meter race at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon.
But she was suspended and missed Tokyo after testing positive for THC, the chemical in cannabis.
The sprinter accepted responsibility for her actions while explaining she took the drug to cope with the stress of her mother’s sudden death.
Even before her win Monday, she was considered a favorite to take an Olympics spot for Paris as she won the U.S. 100-meter title last month.
Richardson said she hopes her journey on the track will help fans see athletes for more than their results.
“It felt amazing just knowing that not only (do) people see me as an athlete, but as a person,” she said. “I want people to see that it goes beyond (being an) athlete, You bring who you are onto the track. You bring your athlete into your life.”