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WATCH: Sprint champion Sha'Carri Richardson isn't everyone's cup of tea ... but that's OK with her

USA's Sha'Carri Richardson reacts after winning the women's 100m final during the World Athletics Championships at the National Athletics Centre in Budapest

Sha'Carri Richardson thrives on confrontation and in a feisty display at the post-race press conference the American said it was as much 'the haters' as her close circle that had driven her to success. Picture: Jewel Samad/AFP

Published Aug 22, 2023


Sha'Carri Richardson took no prisoners on the track in storming to women's 100m world gold in a mirror image of her pugnacious style off it -- which though not to everyone's taste has earned praise from track legend Michael Johnson.

Richardson, 23, recorded a championship record of 10.65sec to stun the far more experienced Jamaican powerhouse duo of Shericka Jackson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and win her first global title on Monday.

Richardson thrives on confrontation and in a feisty display at the post-race press conference the American said it was as much 'the haters' as her close circle that had driven her to success.

'The haters', in her view, are those who waded in after she had to miss the Tokyo Olympics two years ago when her US trials results were annulled following a positive test for marijuana.

"I always say never give up," she said after Monday's triumph from lane nine. "Never allow the media, never allow outsiders, never allow anything but yourself to define who you are. I would say always fight, no matter what, fight.”

Her initial contrition about the marijuana -- which even earned praise from US President Joe Biden -- and explanation that she had smoked it after being told of the death of her biological mother, Shayaria, seems to have hardened into something close to bitterness.

Richardson has complained that she was treated differently to teenage Russian ice skater Kamila Valieva, who competed at last year's Beijing Winter Olympics despite testing positive for a banned substance, because the latter is white and she is black.

Although Valieva was told a day after Russia won gold in the team event that she had tested positive before the Games for the banned angina drug trimetazidine, she was allowed to carry on competing.

"Can we get a solid answer on the difference (between our situations)?" Richardson asked on Twitter, now renamed X, in February 2022.

"The only difference I see is I'm a black young lady. It's all in the skin," she added.

The IOC were not impressed, responding "there is nothing in common between these two cases.”

Richardon is an avowed worshipper of controversial women's 100m and 200m world record holder Florence Griffith-Joyner, who died aged just 38.

Her forthright style has earned her plenty of detractors but Johnson is firmly in the camp of the admirers.

"She's very authentic, she doesn't make excuses," Johnson, the former 200m and 400m world champion who is working as an analyst for BBC, said after her stunning run.

"Some people love to love it and some people love to hate it. I think it's great for the sport because she has a personality that is unmatched.

"The sport needs this now, to draw in people who are not just track fans.”

'Cool cat’

Richardson could not be more of a contrast to her US teammate, new men's 100m champion, Noah Lyles.

They did though both had tough upbringings, Richardson's grandmother Betty Harp taking care of her along with an aunt.

"My family has kept me grounded," she said.

Lyles was afflicted by a racking cough so serious he would often have to be taken to hospital and when his parents divorced his mother Keisha scraped and saved to provide food for him and his two siblings.

Lyles at least had a loving mother, whereas Richardson yearned for that maternal love.

"Not having that bond of my biological mother during the transition of me getting older," she said in a video posting this year.

"I think that's what really got me. She was supposed to be my world and now that she wasn't there I usually asked myself 'Why I'm I here?’.

"It really took me to a very dark place.

"When I was a junior in High School, I tried to commit suicide.”

However, whilst Lyles is largely amiable and smiling, Richardson shoots from the hip and her hackles are easily raised, grudges not let go easily.

Such was the case in a bitter break up with her Jamaican girlfriend 100m hurdler Janeek Brown.

Richardson and Brown became embroiled in a bitter claim and counter claim of mental, physical and verbal abuse.

Brown said Richardson's going public about the relationship had been "malicious and calculated.”

It was a far cry from happier times when Richardson delighted Brown by sporting LGBTQ+ colours after winning the 2021 US trials 100m.

Johnson is not the only high profile believer.

Her former training partner 2004 Olympic 100m champion and two-time world gold medallist Justin Gatlin, who served two doping bans, is in no doubt about her potential.

"She can be the greatest female sprinter,"  said Gatlin, who was coached like Richardson by Dennis Mitchell, who also served a doping ban back in his prime as a sprinter.

Richardson may be abrasive but she also has the ability to touch people, like her former university coach Dennis Shaver, who calls her "a cool cat."