Track & Field

American Sha'Carri Richardson caps comeback by winning 100-meter world title

Richardson missed the Tokyo Olympics two years ago after a positive marijuana test

FERENC ISZA/AFP via Getty Images

USA’s Sha’Carri Richardson reacts after crossing the finish line to win the women’s 100m final during the World Athletics Championships at the National Athletics Centre in Budapest on Aug. 21, 2023.

American Sha’Carri Richardson won the women's 100-meter world title Monday, outsprinting a star-studded field to take a gold medal two years after a positive marijuana test derailed her Olympic dreams.

Running on the far outside in Lane 9, Richardson finished in 10.65 seconds to match the year's best time and set the world-championship record.

She beat Jamaicans Shericka Jackson by .07 seconds and five-time champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce by .12.

“I’m here, I told y’all,” she told the track announcer right after the race. “I’m not back, I’m better.”

This was Richardson’s first major competition on the world stage and she was listed as a 5-1 underdog even though she came in as the American champion and had bested Jackson, who also has run 10.65 this year, the previous two times they met in 2023.

The race featured four of the eight fastest runners of all time, including Marie-Josée Ta Lou, who finished fourth.

Though it was clear Richardson had finished ahead of all those runners to her left in the gold-medal race, the 23-year-old looked stunned when she crossed the line.

She blew a kiss toward the sky, cast her eyes on that beautiful scoreboard and walked toward the stands in a daze to accept the American flag and congratulations from Fraser-Pryce, Dina Asher-Smith of Britain and others.

What a comeback story it was — and just in time for the buildup to the Paris Olympics, which start less than 12 months from now.

Richardson appeared ready to become America’s next sprint star when she cruised to a win at Olympic trials two years ago. But that victory quickly came off the books after she tested positive for marijuana — a doping violation she readily admitted, saying she was in a bad place after the recent death of her mom.

A raucous debate ensued over whether marijuana, not a performance enhancer, really belonged on the banned list (it’s still there), and also whether regulators were too keen to go after a young, outspoken, Black, American woman (they said everyone is subject to the same rules).

After a few unsuccessful comeback attempts — she finished an embarrassing last at a much-hyped return a few weeks after the Tokyo Olympics — Richardson finally started rounding into form to start 2023. About a year ago, she bared her soul in a live chat on social media, urging people to find their true selves, much the way she had done.

She also found herself on the track, and when the biggest race this side of the Olympics was over Monday night, everyone was looking at her.

She did it with a lot going against her.

The vagaries of track and field's rulebook had placed her in the so-called Semifinal of Death, paired against Jackson and Ta Lou in a race, with only the top two guaranteed spots in the final.

In that semifinal, Richardson got off to a wretched start and had to rally from seventh to finish third in 10.84. Her time was the fastest among all nonqualifiers, so she made it. But a mere 70 minutes later, she was out in Lane 9 for the final, as tough a spot as there is because there's no way to feel how the top contenders — or anyone, really — is doing.

When Jackson, running in Lane 4, crossed the line, she looked up as though maybe she had won.

But no. It was Richardson crossing first and becoming the first American to win the 100 world title since the late Tori Bowie in 2017. She also stopped Fraser-Pryce, who had won in 2019 and 2022, from matching pole vaulter Sergey Bubka's record of six world titles in an individual discipline.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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