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Olympic track and field trials results: Sha’Carri Richardson wins 100 meters

EUGENE, Ore. — Three years ago, after her first race at her first U.S. Olympic track and field trials, Sha’Carri Richardson dusted a field of sprinters older than her and declared, “I’m that girl.” She was 21. She ran wearing a Technicolor orange wig that resembled flames shooting off her head. She could not have known all that was rushing at her.

Richardson returned to the trials after years of turbulence and growth, of opportunities stolen, squandered and seized. She came back already a world champion. She left with a ticket to the Paris Olympics, smiling and poised and fastest in the world. That girl is all grown up.

Three years after she tested positive for marijuana and an Olympic berth slipped through her grasp, Richardson earned another. She won the 100 meters Saturday night at Hayward Field in a blistering 10.71 seconds, 0.09 seconds ahead of second-place Melissa Jefferson, the 2022 national champion, and 0.18 seconds better than Twanisha Terry. Richardson, Jefferson and Terry all train together under Coach Dennis Mitchell, and now they will head to Paris together.

Once she crossed the line, Richardson kept sprinting halfway around the track. She dropped to her knees and cried. She stood and hugged Terry and Jefferson. The travails and triumphs of the past three years, she was certain, had led there.

“Everything I’ve been through is everything I have been through to be in this moment right now,” Richardson said. “So there’s nothing I’ve been through that hasn’t designed me to sit right here in front of you.”

On the second night of the trials, Ryan Crouser further solidified his standing as the greatest shot put thrower of all time with his seventh national championship and Noah Lyles made a statement in his 100-meter opener. But when Richardson steps on a track, it belongs to her.

As she walked to the start line for the final, Richardson smacked herself in the chest and told herself, “Hard work pays off.” She settled into the blocks and performed her usual routine: She crossed her face, blew a kiss and looked to the sky. Her starts had been shaky in preliminary heats, but she whooshed from the blocks even with the field — which meant it was over. Richardson used her best-in-the-world top-end speed to open a comfortable lead.

After a victory, Richardson often screams or struts. Saturday night, she was holding back tears as she crossed the line.

“This time around, it was still confident, still my exciting, normal self,” Richardson said. “But more so, it was the emotions of just joy.”

Richardson, 24, emphasizes that she has moved on from her past, but reminders of it are unavoidable. In her semifinal heat Saturday, Richardson broke into a grin as the stadium announcer introduced her as “the reigning world champion.” Over in Lane 9, Javianne Oliver was introduced as the 2021 U.S. trials champion — Richardson’s performance was officially erased with her positive test. She described her victory as a “full-circle moment.”

Even before the final, Richardson had flashed a gear no other American sprinter can access. In Friday’s opening round, Richardson was the last sprinter out of the blocks. She still zipped past the entire field and finished in 10.88, the fastest time of any heat and one bettered by only two women all year. She ran the fastest semifinal heat, too, despite another subpar start, holding out her arms as the clock read 10.86.

Richardson had made a U.S. Olympic team before but had never been an Olympian. On the eve of the 2021 trials, a reporter revealed to Richardson that her biological mother had died. Richardson said she used marijuana to cope with the emotional fallout. Despite shifting attitudes in the United States, marijuana remains a banned substance under World Anti-Doping Agency code. When a drug test came back positive after her victory, the suspension kept her out of the Tokyo Games.

Turmoil persisted. In her first race back, Richardson finished last on national television between commercials starring her. At the 2022 national championships, Richardson inexplicably ran some of her slowest times, failed to escape the first round and admonished reporters in the mixed zone.

Having reached the nadir of her young career, Richardson refocused and matured. She developed “just a better understanding of myself,” she said. She grew “a deeper love and a deeper care for the talent that I have been given.” Rather than seethe at critics, she embraced “my responsibility to the people that believe in and support me.” She nurtured her mind and body.

“I feel like all of those components have helped me grow, and will continue to help me grow into the young lady I have been divined and blessed by God to be,” Richardson said.

It began to surface last summer. She stormed to the national title in 2023, where she declared: “I’m not back. I’m better.” In Budapest, she overcame a slow start in the semifinals and won the world championship from Lane 9, finally overcoming Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah, her dominant Jamaican rivals, in a personal-best 10.65 seconds.

She is set to race against the world’s best again, this time on a stage she has never stepped on before with two teammates. Jefferson watched Richardson win the 2021 trials final and told herself she would make the next Olympic team. She won the 2022, the failed to qualify for the 2023 world championships.

“I told myself then that would be the last USA team I would not make in my career,” Jefferson said.

The miss convinced her to switch coaches to Mitchell and train with Terry and Richardson. “These girls, they’re like my sisters,” Jefferson. The trio trains with love, often the tough kind. They do not shy from offering harsh critiques of one another, or of pushing each other.

“We lean on each other, rely on each other,” Terry said. “We tell other what it is, whether we want to hear it or not.”

Saturday night, their work paid off.

“We didn’t put the world on notice,” Richardson said. “The world already knew.”

Lyles will try to join Richardson as a fellow megawatt 100-meter champion Sunday night. He made his trials debut in the first round of the 100 meters and showcased his improved start, the ingredient that makes him a threat to win three gold medals in Paris. Lyles surged to the lead after 30 meters, and with 40 meters remaining he could slow down, cruise over the line and still win in 9.92.

“I would definitely say that’s the best I’ve felt” in an opening-round 100 meters, Lyles said. “I ran a little faster in worlds last year, but I didn’t have what I was looking for. I was still kind of searching. This year, I feel like I have everything. I’m executing it when I want it. It’s coming.”

Lyles declared he wants to break 9.8 seconds Sunday, which would be a personal best and the fastest time in the world this year. He operated with his typical flourish. His mother sat in the stands next to Snoop Dogg. Lyles walked into the stadium carrying a silver briefcase that contained the all-white uniform that matched the pearls threaded into his braids.

“I have joy when I’m here,” Lyles said. “That’s the kind of energy I try to create.”

Crouser maintained his status as a heavy favorite to win his third consecutive gold medal. He could not match his feat from three years ago, when he first set the world record at the trials, but he still won with a throw of 22.84 meters (74 feet 11¼ inches). Joe Kovacs, the reigning silver medalist who has the misfortune of being in the same era as Crouser, finished second to him yet again.

Crouser took an hour-long victory lap after a victory described as just as satisfying as his world record throw. Crouser underwent minor elbow surgery this spring and made technical tweaks to thrive despite the pain.

“This had much more of a sigh of relief and just proving to myself I still got it,” Crouser said. “At 31, I’m not at the end of my career, but there’s that constant injury and, am I going to get that feeling back? I proved to myself if I just keep moving forward, there’s a lot of rough days along the way. Progress is not anywhere close to linear. I just kept hammering forward and kept moving and got through it. I bought myself six more weeks to keep getting better.”

In a men’s 1,500 semifinal, crowd favorite Eric Holt, a 29-year-old unsponsored runner, faded to the back of his heat and failed to make the final. Holt faulted his tactics in a slower-paced heat, taking too many runs toward the front. But his Olympic trials are not over — he said he will enter the 800.

“I feel like I’m the type of runner if I have one move, I do well,” Holt said. “And I did like 50 moves. I failed. It’s all execution. I ran a dumb race. I deserve not to qualify. Whatever, you know? I’m about to shock the world in an event I feel like I’m better at.”

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