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Who Is Sha’Carri Richardson? Meet the Team USA Sprinter Going for Gold

After a positive drug test derailed the track star's Olympic dreams in 2021, the fastest woman in the world is primed for glory at the Summer Games in Paris.

By Ethan Sacks

The fastest woman in the world is set for a second chance at Olympics glory after being tripped up by a suspension before the previous Summer Games.

Sha’Carri Richardson, one of the most popular American stars on the track and field circuit, is now poised to make a medal run in Paris. 

The Fastest Woman in the World

The 24-year-old has cemented her status as an Olympic favorite after winning gold medals in the 100M and 4x100M relay at the 2023 World Championships. Richardson didn’t just best a field headlined by five-time champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica; she blazed to an event record of 10.65 seconds. That win made her the reigning fastest woman in the world.

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Richardson also took home a bronze in the 200M at those World Championships in Budapest.

Running in her first race of the new Diamond League season in Xiamen on April 20, Richardson was upset by less-heralded Torrie Lewis of Australia in the 200M, but the American superstar took her second-place finish in stride.

Paris 2024 Sha'Carri RichardsonSha'Carri Richardson celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the women's 100m final during the Diamond League athletics meeting

“I know what I need to work on, me and my coach,” Richardson told reporters after the race. “I’m pretty sure by the time I get back to the warmup area he’s already formulating on how to get better for the next race.”

Every step brings her closer to qualifying for the Paris Games and an Olympic dream delayed by three years.

Her Shocking Disqualification

Going into the Covid-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021, Richardson was widely considered a pillar of U.S. medal hopes in track. Instead, she was suspended from the Olympic team over a positive test for THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana, taken after her qualifying win at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field trials.

Richardson told NBC’s TODAY at the time that she took the drug after learning about her biological mother’s death from a reporter. The sprinter was raised by her grandmother and an aunt.

Gold medalist Sha'Carri Richardson of Team United States poses for a photo on the podium during the medal ceremony

Marijuana is legal in Oregon, where the then 21-year-old track star was at the time.

"I know what I did, I know what I'm supposed to do ... and I still made that decision," Richardson told TODAY. "I'm not making an excuse or looking for empathy in my case. However, being in that position in my life, finding out something like that ... dealing with the relationship I have with my mother, that definitely was a very heavy topic on me."

A Fan Favorite

That sort of honesty, along with her world-class talent, fashionable hairstyles, and elaborately manicured nails, have elevated Richardson to superstar status. She inked a multi-year sponsorship deal with Nike after her World Championship breakthrough last year.

The Dallas native has been dominating at every level since the days she won three Texas state championships in high school. She attended Louisiana State University for one year before turning pro – long enough to win the 2018-19 NCAA championship in the 100m.

She left to pursue her childhood dream: Representing her country at the Olympics.

The 2024 Olympics

Sha'Carri Richardson of Team United States competes in the Women's 100m Heats during day two of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 2023

In the aftermath of her nightmarish disqualification, Richardson has been running with a spring in her step and a chip on her shoulder.

Tuning out the criticism over her Olympic suspension two years earlier, she leaned on the mantra, "I'm not back, I'm better," over the course of her amazing 2023 season. 

The Paris Games would offer Richardson the chance to notch the first American gold in the 100M since Gail Devers stood at the top of the medal podium at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Jamaica has dominated the event over the last four Summer Olympics, with Fraser-Pryce and then Elaine Thompson-Herah winning two golds apiece.

The 200M potentially features an even tougher field, with Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson coming off two straight World titles. Richardson's likely USA teammate Gabby Thomas could also be a strong contender in the event. 

Richardson's dream may have been deferred, but it is not yet denied.

Beginning July 26, you can catch complete coverage of the Olympics on Peacock and NBC.

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