When Texan sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson qualified for the Tokyo Olympics 100m last month, it sent shockwaves across the internet. The 21-year-old was hailed as the most exciting track talent since Usain Bolt after she ran 100 metres in 10.72 seconds, the sixth fastest time in history, at tryouts.
Her exuberant, unapologetic style – lashes, full set of acrylic nails, fiery red hair blowing in the wind – evoked that of Florence Griffith Joyner’s, the late three-time gold medalist who was renowned in the 1980s for bringing fashion and glamour to her sport, all the while smashing world records. After her record-breaking race, Richardson lovingly thanked her girlfriend and embraced her grandmother. Suddenly, she was the new sensation in town – and we couldn’t get enough.
A few weeks later, Richardson made headlines again, this time for testing positive after a cannabis test, which saw her banned for a month, meaning she couldn’t compete in the Olympics 100m (she could have made the relay team but was not picked). In an interview with NBC, Richardson said that she had smoked weed after learning that her biological mother died shortly before the trials: “I want to take responsibility for my actions, I know what I did and what I’m not supposed to do.”
Many people felt that this ruling was unfair – after all, cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug. Divisive debates were ignited about the expectations that so often surround athletes, as well as the dehumanisation of Black women in sports. Most of us agreed, as more than half a million people signed a petition to reinstate Richardson to the Olympics. In the end, though, the committee didn’t budge on their decision and nor did the US Olympic team.
As questions keep being raised around the Olympics’ outdated model, Richardson is doing her own thing – and she has no intention of keeping out of the limelight. The athlete has teamed up with none other than Kanye West in the run up to his highly-anticipated tenth studio album, Donda, which will drop tomorrow.
In a West-directed teaser made in collaboration with Beats by Dre, Richardson runs 100m on her own terms to No Child Left Behind, one of the rapper’s brand new tracks. There’s no telling how far Richardson can go, or how fast, but one thing is certain – this is only the beginning.
Listen to the Donda livestream on Apple Music this Thursday at 8pm ET