A Resilient Sha’Carri Richardson Wins the 100-Meter World Title

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Sha’Carri Richardson is the 100-meter world champion. 

It is a sentence that has seemed possible for years, ever since a 19-year-old Richardson set the Austin, Texas track on fire by running 10.75 to win the NCAA 100-meter title as a true freshman in 2019. Yet since that steamy night in Austin four years ago, the probability of Richardson writing that sentence into reality has fluctuated more wildly than the stock market.

The latest dip came at 8:43 p.m. tonight, one second after the gun was fired to start the second semifinal at the 2023 World Athletics Championships. Richardson, in a cruel luck of the draw, was drawn into a comically loaded semifinal, flanked on either side by world leader Shericka Jackson of Jamaica and the world #3 Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast. Richardson hung in the blocks a beat longer than everyone else – her reaction time of .222 was .04 of a second slower than any other runner, spotting ground to the field in a race where only the top two would advance automatically. In that moment, it wasn’t clear Richardson would even be in the final, let alone win gold.

But in 2023, the world has seen a different Sha’Carri. There have been many words written over the years to describe Sha’Carri Richardson. Calm and composed were typically not among them. Tonight, no words were more fitting. Richardson ran down Jackson and Ta Lou, and while she could not catch them by the finish line, her 10.84 was easily enough to snag a time qualifier to the final, which would be run 67 minutes later.

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In the 41-year history of the World Championships, no woman had won the 100 meters from lane 9 — Richardson’s punishment for finishing third in her semifinal. No woman had even medalled after needing a time qualifier to the final. But perhaps it was fitting that Richardson was out there on her own, four and five lanes away from her fiercest competitors, Jamaicans Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Jackson, respectively. All year, ever since her blazing wind-aided 10.57 opener in Florida on April 8, Richardson has made a conscious effort to focus on herself and tune out the distractions that had previously derailed her. She would be put to the test one last time in Budapest.

Richardson responded with the fastest women’s 100 meters ever at a World Championships. Fraser-Pryce, hobbled for much of the year by a knee injury, produced her best time of the season. Jackson ran the strong race we have come to expect from her. Neither could hang with Richardson tonight.

Richardson was just too good. Starting far better than the semifinals, Richardson pulled away midway through the race, just as we’ve seen her do so many times before. This time, however, it wasn’t NCAAs or the Miramar Invitational or even the Olympic Trials. It was the World Championship final against the greatest female sprinter of all time and the fastest woman of 2023, and Richardson outclassed them both.

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Even Richardson couldn’t quite believe it. Despite throwing her arms out in celebration across the line, she waited an extra 20 seconds staring at the scoreboard, which confirmed her victory: 10.65 — a personal best by .06 — plus a championship record and tied for the fifth-fastest woman of all time. Jackson, who came in as the world leader at 10.65, took silver for the second year in a row in 10.72 with Fraser-Pryce earning bronze in 10.77 at age 36 – her 10th (!) individual medal in a world/Olympic 100m final.

Race video (If you need a VPN to have a US IP to watch it, get the VPN we use at Letsrun)

Richardson has been reluctant to specifically share what, if anything, has changed behind the scenes after a 2022 season that saw her implode at the US championships and fail to advance to even the semifinals of the 100 meters. But ever since Richardson went viral after being kicked off a plane in January, her name has only been in the headlines for good reasons: her performances on the track or her efforts at the US championships to build an athlete’s union.

“The difference between now and [2022] is I’ve been whole with myself,” Richardson said. “I’ve been able to stay in my faith, stay grounded. The people around me, knowing to keep [people] around me who genuinely care for me and [eliminating] who doesn’t and just staying dedicated and focused, blocking out the noise, blocking out media.”

Those last two bear notice. Richardson was handed a massive Nike contract at 19 and became one of the most famous athletes in America overnight after her win and subsequent disqualification at the US Olympic Trials as a 21-year-old. Most people mature a fair amount between the ages of 19 and 23. Few have to do it with as much attention on them as Richardson.

Whatever got her to this point, Richardson is a far more focused and resilient athlete than the version we have seen the last two years. It was those newfound qualities, as much as any speed or acceleration, that enabled her to win the world title tonight. She has learned to ride the wave instead of fighting it.

Kevin Morris photo

“You’re going to have good days, you’re gonna have bad days,” Richardson said. “You’re gonna have better days, you’re gonna have worse days. But you live to see tomorrow. Every day, the sun don’t shine. But that’s why I love tomorrow.”

As she was introduced to the crowd at the National Athletics Centre, there was no preening, no talking, no wig reveal. Just one raised index finger and four quick, silent points to the sky. She was all business.

Now, Richardson is not just a world champion, but the winner of one of the most-anticipated World Championship finals ever. Jackson, who ran 10.65 at the Jamaican trials, was in the shape of her life and didn’t run far off her best tonight – 10.72 is the fastest time ever that has failed to win a gold medal at Worlds or the Olympics. A banged-up Fraser-Pryce was not quite at her best, but she is the consummate big-meet performer and was always going to be tough to beat. Ta Lou didn’t get a medal despite running the co-fastest time ever for 4th in any women’s 100 race (10.81) and walked through the mixed zone in tears. St. Lucia’s Julien Alfred, the NCAA champion this year for Texas (5th in 10.93) had been brilliant all year and entered the race undefeated at 100m. None of them were going to let Richardson have this one. She had to earn it, and she did.

After Jamaica’s podium sweeps at the 2021 Olympics and 2022 Worlds, the United States has its first medal in the women’s 100 since the late Tori Bowie won in 2017, and it’s gold. At just 23 – and it’s scary to say this – Richardson could still get even better.

She may have to be. The Jamaicans will be gunning for her in Paris next year, but Richardson has age on her side against Fraser-Pryce (36), Jackson (29), and double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah (31).

Richardson admitted in the post-race press conference that she had grown up watching Fraser-Pryce, who won her first Olympic title when Richardson was an eight-year-old in Dallas. But Richardson did not win the world title tonight by focusing on Fraser-Pryce, or Jackson, or the headlines, or her doubters, or her believers. As she wound through the mixed zone after the race, NBC’s Lewis Johnson asked her if she felt she had earned the Jamaicans’ respect by beating them. It is hard to imagine she hadn’t, but Richardson responded by saying  she had earned the respect of someone even more important.

“Not even just the Jamaicans, I feel like I’ve earned the respect for myself,” Richardson said. “That’s the biggest thing for me, not even just the world but for Sha’carri Richardson. I put that respect on me, for me. I’ve been downplaying myself for so long, and this entire season, I know I belong. I know I deserve to be here.”

Full Results

Final 1, Wind: -0.2

1. Sha’Carri RICHARDSON 25 MAR 2000 USA 10.65
2. Shericka JACKSON 16 JUL 1994 JAM 10.72
3. Shelly-Ann FRASER-PRYCE 27 DEC 1986 JAM 10.77
4. Marie-Josée TA LOU 18 NOV 1988 CIV 10.81
5. Julien ALFRED 10 JUN 2001 LCA 10.93
6. Ewa SWOBODA 26 JUL 1997 POL 10.97
7. Brittany BROWN 18 APR 1995 USA 10.97
8. Dina ASHER-SMITH 04 DEC 1995 GBR 11.00
9. Tamari DAVIS 15 FEB 2003 USA 11.03

Semifinal 1, Wind: -0.4

1. Shelly-Ann FRASER-PRYCE 27 DEC 1986 JAM 10.89
2. Tamari DAVIS 15 FEB 2003 USA 10.98
3. Ewa SWOBODA 26 JUL 1997 POL 11.01
4. Daryll NEITA 29 AUG 1996 GBR 11.03
5. Gina LÜCKENKEMPER 21 NOV 1996 GER 11.18
5. Michelle-Lee AHYE 10 APR 1992 TTO 11.18
7. Zaynab DOSSO 12 SEP 1999 ITA 11.19
8. Rosemary CHUKWUMA 05 DEC 2001 NGR 11.26

Semifinal 2, Wind: -0.4

1. Shericka JACKSON 16 JUL 1994 JAM 10.79
1. Marie-Josée TA LOU 18 NOV 1988 CIV 10.79
3. Sha’Carri RICHARDSON 25 MAR 2000 USA 10.84
4. Zoe HOBBS 11 SEP 1997 NZL 11.02
5. Mujinga KAMBUNDJI 17 JUN 1992 SUI 11.04
6. Shashalee FORBES 10 MAY 1996 JAM 11.12
7. Jaël BESTUÉ 24 SEP 2000 ESP 11.25
8. Boglárka TAKÁCS 28 AUG 2001 HUN 11.26

Semifinal 3, Wind: -0.1

1. Julien ALFRED 10 JUN 2001 LCA 10.92
2. Brittany BROWN 18 APR 1995 USA 10.97
3. Dina ASHER-SMITH 04 DEC 1995 GBR 11.01
4. Natasha MORRISON 17 NOV 1992 JAM 11.03
5. N’Ketia SEEDO 07 JUN 2003 NED 11.17
6. Gina BASS 03 MAY 1995 GAM 11.19
7. Rani ROSIUS 25 APR 2000 BEL 11.20
8. Géraldine FREY 19 JUN 1997 SUI 11.28

Full post-race medalists’ press conference

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