US sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson hit rock bottom in 2021. She's just made the ultimate comeback.

America's Sha'Carri Richardson is officially the fastest woman in the world.

This week on the world's biggest athletic stage, 23-year-old Richardson came first in the 100-metre race at the World Athletic Championships. 

She finished the race in 10.65 seconds, and when she reached the end, she stared up at the stadium scoreboard in disbelief and elation. She said it was "surreal".

For Richardson, her rise to the top has been marred with challenges, including a heavily publicised scandal that almost ruined her career.

Watch the moment Sha'Carri Richardson wins the 100m sprint. Post continues below.

Video via World Athletics

Back in 2021, Richardson was a star athlete in the making.

The then 21-year-old had won the women's 100-metre final at the US track-and-field Olympic trials in Oregon, securing herself a spot on the American team for the Tokyo Olympic Games. 

Running with flaming orange hair, thick eyelash extensions and long, colourful nails, Richardson ran the event in 10.86 seconds. After the race, she jogged up into the crowd to hug her grandmother.

She instantly became a gold-medal hopeful and a social media sensation.

"I just want the world to know that I'm that girl," she said in a viral interview after her semi-final.


It was a euphoric win for Richardson - especially considering what she had been through just days earlier. 

During an interview prior to the trials, a reporter informed Richardson that her biological mother had died. It came as a complete shock.

"To hear that information coming from a complete stranger, it was definitely triggering," Richardson told the Today show. 

"It was definitely nerve-shocking. It was just like, who are you to tell me that? No offence against him at all. He was just doing his job. But definitely that sent me into a state of mind, a state of emotional panic.

"I still have to go out and put out a performance for my dream, go out there and still compete. From there, just blinded by emotions, just blinded by hurting, I knew I couldn't hide myself. 

"In some type of way, I was just trying to hide my pain."

Speaking to Today, Richardson said the news and the pressure to make the Olympic team led her to smoke marijuana, in the state of Oregon, where the drug is legal.

It is however banned under competition rules, and the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced the positive test result and said Richardson has accepted a suspension of one month, starting on June 28, 2021. 

While this could still allow her to compete in the 4x100 meter relay at the Tokyo Games, Richardson would miss out on the 100-metre race.

"The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels," USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart said in a statement.

"Hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of this one to her."


Sha'Carri Richardson in 2021 during the Olympic trials. Image: Getty.

During her interview with Today, Richardson acknowledged her mistake.

"I know what I did. I know what I’m supposed to do. I know what I'm allowed not to do. But I still made that decision. I'm not making an excuse."

"Like I tweeted yesterday, I'm human," she said. "We are human, I want to be as transparent as possible with you guys whether it's good, whether it's bad."


Two years later, Richardson is back - and she's better.

At this year's national championships, which are a qualifying meet for the world championships, Richardson was at the top of her game. 

She wore the same orange wig as she did during much of her 2021 season as she walked into the stadium. Then when her name was announced on the loudspeaker she took off the wig, threw it behind her and the crowd roared. She ended up winning the race. 

"Last time I was really here in a big stadium I had my orange hair and I wanted to show you guys that I'm still that girl but I'm better. I'm still that girl but I'm stronger. I'm still that girl but I'm wiser," she said in a post-match interview. 

"I had to shed the old and present the new."

And now after winning her race in the World Athletic Championships, Richardson is the cream of the crop - making the ultimate comeback.

Sha'Carri Richardson at the World Athletic Championships. Image: Getty.


Reflecting on all she's been through, she said it was accepting the choices she made and focusing on reaching the next milestone that helped her through the temporary ban.

"I sit here and I'm beginning to know and understand who I am. I want to walk in that light. I want to be worthy," she said recently in an Instagram video.

"My journey has taught me a lot of things. Coming to terms and understanding that if I want to be better, I have to be better."

She has however pointed out a certain double standard shown in who is being held accountable by the doping authorities, and who is not. 

Last year Russian figure skating sensation 15-year-old Kamila Valieva failed a drug test during the Tokyo Olympic Games. And yet she was still allowed to compete for the gold medal.

"Can we get a solid answer on the difference between their situations?" Richardson asked on Twitter.

"My mother died and I can't run and was also favoured to place top three. The only difference I see is I'm a Black young lady," Richardson said. 

"It's all in the skin."

Feature Image: Getty.

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