The lingering question in the wake of the women’s 100-meter final at the Tokyo Olympics was how Sha’Carri Richardson’s presence would have altered the outcome.
Could America’s fastest woman have broken up Jamaica’s 1-2-3 sweep if she were permitted to run? Might Richardson even have challenged gold medalist Elaine Thompson-Herah, who came as close to Florence Griffith Joyner’s world record as anyone has in 33 years?
Richardson’s underwhelming return to the track at Saturday’s Prefontaine Classic essentially poured a bucket of ice water on that simmering debate. In her first race since the marijuana suspension that robbed her of the chance to compete in Tokyo, Richardson finished last, not only behind all three Jamaican medalists but also behind the five other competitors.
Thompson-Herah won the women’s 100 in a personal-best 10.54 seconds, which was .05 seconds off FloJo’s record of 10.49. She pulled away from countrywomen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson just like she did in Tokyo three weeks ago. Richardson started sluggishly and continued to lose ground throughout the race. Her time of 11.14 seconds is more than four-tenths of a second shy of what she was running earlier this season.
Sha’Carri Richardson delivers fiery post-race interview
At the end of the race, Richardson delivered fireworks during a defiant trackside interview with NBC’s Lewis Johnson. Still out of breath from the race, Richardson declared her performance “a great return back to the sport” and insisted she was “not upset at myself at all.”
“This is one race,” Richardson continued. “I’m not done. You know what I’m capable of. Count me out if you want to. Talk all the s— you want. Because I’m here to stay. I’m not done. I’m the sixth fastest woman in this game ever. Can’t nobody ever take that from me.”
Sha’Carri Richardson sent a message before she returned to the track on Saturday.
“Aug. 21,” she wrote alongside a video she posted on Instagram this week, “and I’m not playing nice.”
The message was clear: Weeks after a positive drug test cost her Olympic dream, Richardson was, in the video and in real life, ready to run again. On Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., though, her return to competition at the Prefontaine Classic did not go as planned.