Sha’Carri Richardson Is the Center of Attention, Runs Wind-Aided 10.64 in Semis, Then Wins Her First US 100m Title in 10.86

By Jonathan Gault
June 19, 2021

EUGENE, Ore. — Before heading to Eugene for her first Olympic Trials, Sha’Carri Richardson dyed her hair orange. She did it in order to stand out.

“To make sure that I’m visible and being seen,” Richardson said.

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As if she needed any help.

Richardson’s look — long dark lashes, double nose piercings, fake pink nails, and who could forget the dragon tattoo on her left shoulder? — already sends quite a message. But Richardson could compete with a bag over her head and she’d still be one of the most visible athletes in all of track & field. Nothing can hide the sprinting talent and unreal acceleration that propelled the 21-year-old Dallas native to her first US title tonight in the women’s 100 meters in 10.86, run into a 1.0 meter-per-second headwind. Richardson’s training partner Javianne Oliver (10.99) took second, Teahna Daniels (11.03) third to round out the US Olympic team for Tokyo; all three athletes are headed to their first Games.

Some US sprint finals can be as tough as Olympic finals. In 2016, it took 10.78 just to make the US women’s 100-meter team, and tomorrow night’s men’s 100m semifinals will feature the five fastest men in the world this year. Tonight’s race was not that. But globally, the women’s 100 meters is loaded in 2021, with Richardson, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce — the GOAT of the event who ran a pb of 10.63 (#2 all-time) on June 5 in Kingston — and 200-meter world champion Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain, who beat both of them last month in Gateshead. Realistically, Richardson was the only woman at this meet with a shot at Olympic gold, and thus drew outsize attention compared to the rest of the field. It was merited.

The Sha’Carri Richardson Show began in Friday’s preliminary round, when she ripped a 10.84 — faster than any other American in 2021 — just for fun. Things really picked up in tonight’s semifinals, when Richardson ran her fastest time ever: 10.64.

That run conjured memories of another Olympic Trials, 33 years ago in Indianapolis when another flamboyant speedster, Florence Griffith Joyner, ran 10.49 in the quarterfinals to set a world record that still stands. Richardson was not quite that fast, and the +2.7 tailwind (FloJo’s was a questionable 0.0 that day) meant that her official personal best remains 10.72. 

But it was staggering nonetheless. Richardson did not get a good start — “we know my start is not quite the best — like the world loves to point out” she told NBC’s Lewis Johnson after the race — and she ran the last 15 meters while pointing at the clock, as if willing her magical time into existence. Yet she still ran 10.64 due to the kind of midrace acceleration that occasionally defies description. It was difficult even for Richardson to find the right words for it — though to be fair, she was a little out of breath during the trackside interview with Johnson.

“We know what it is to do what I do,” Richardson said. “…Part of the race that I do know I’m great at [is the second half]. We just continue to make sure I’m not too far behind so when I get to that part of the race, I do what I know to do and everybody else knows that I can do.”

With that 10.64 as a prelude, the stage was set for something truly ludicrous in the final 108 minutes later. Again, Richardson got a pedestrian start, and though she did dominate the field to win the national title, the time — “only” 10.86 — felt slightly underwhelming.

It’s more impressive with context. Richardson’s 10.64, run with a +2.7 tailwind, converts to 10.78 in still conditions. Her 10.86 — run into a -1.0 headwind — is worth 10.79. Two sub-10.80 caliber performances within the span of two hours is some very quick running indeed.

Richardson will need a better start to take down Fraser-Pryce and Asher-Smith in Tokyo, but there is no doubting her ability to contend for the gold. Back on May 9 at Mt. SAC; Richardson ran 10.77 into a bigger headwind (-1.2) than she faced tonight in a run worth 10.69 with no wind.

What is very clear right now: Richardson is head and shoulders above the rest of the United States 100-meter corps. And at just 21 years old, it could stay that way for a while.

Richardson’s win was expected, but the other two members of Team USA would have been hard to predict at the start of the week. Runner-up Javianne Oliver entered the meet known mostly as a 60-meter specialist (she was the NCAA 60 runner-up at Kentucky in 2017 — she never made an NCAA outdoor final — and US 60 champion in 2018), having broken 11 seconds just twice in her life. Then the 26-year-old Oliver did it in all three rounds at the Trials — 10.96 pb in the prelims, a windy 10.83 in the semis, and 10.99 in the final — to make the team in her very first appearance at a US outdoor championships. (It seems worth noting here that Richardson and Oliver are both coached by Dennis Mitchell, whose Florida-based group also contains Justin Gatlindraw your own conclusions.)

As for Daniels…is it a surprise when the reigning US champion makes the Olympic team? It is if that same US champion had yet to win a race in 2021 and entered the Trials with a season’s best of 11.14, which put her in a tie for 21st on the US list. Then she got to Eugene and got the job done, clocking a season’s best of 11.02 in the prelims Friday and almost replicating that feat with an 11.03 in tonight’s final into a headwind.

“I’ve always been told that I’m a gamer,” Daniels said. “I can always show up.”

There was a minor controversy — of course there was, this is the Olympic Trials after all — as Aleia Hobbs, the 2018 US champ, was allowed to run the final despite being disqualified in the semifinals, where she was charged with a false start after her flinch in the blocks caused Gabby Thomas to break early. Hobbs was nonetheless advanced directly to the final upon appeal (thanks for building that ninth lane on the straightaway, Phil Knight) but did not factor, finishing 7th.

Results

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1 Sha’Carri Richardson NIKE OLY STD 10.86
2 Javianne Oliver NIKE OLY STD 10.99
3 Teahna Daniels NIKE OLY STD 11.03
4 Jenna Prandini PUMA OLY STD 11.11 SB
5 Gabby Thomas New Balance / Buford Bailey TC OLY STD 11.15
6 English Gardner NIKE OLY STD 11.16
7 Aleia Hobbs adidas 11.20
8 Kayla White NIKE OLY STD 11.22
9 Candace Hill ASICS OLY STD 11.23

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More day 2 coverage from LetsRun.com. Rest of Day 2: The Key Players All Make the W800 and M1500 Finals as Valarie Allman CRUSHES the Discus Field and Trayvon Bromell Starts Well (9.84w) The men’s 800 and women’s 1500 finals are all set and sure to be full of drama.

For complete Olympic Trials coverage, check out the LetsRun.com front page each day or go to our Trials special section after the fact.

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