Sha’Carri Richardson still has to figure out how to deal with disappointment
OPINION: The 22-year-old track star failed to exhibit growth or maturity after last weekend's disappointing performance at the U.S. track and field championships.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Sometimes we forget that international track star Sha’Carri Richardson is otherwise just another Black woman at age 22, a young’un by grown folks’ standards.
Aside from being one of the fastest women in American history, Richardson reminds me somewhat of my daughters and their girlfriends, all in their early-to-mid-20s, navigating a troubling era that stresses them and worries the parents. Science suggests that most people don’t reach full brain development until age 25, but I recall being a genius at that point. Living longer has taught me different.
Richardson will learn as she grows, too.
She’s currently in her latest master class, Managing a Low Point II, with lessons from last week’s stunning and disappointing performance at the U.S. track and field outdoor championships. The result in her best event, the 100 meters, was pitiful. Richardson failed to advance out of preliminaries, posting the ninth slowest time in a field of 31 competitors.
The 200 meters was better, as she reached the semifinals, but not nearly good enough. Richardson’s time was the 10th fastest of 16 competitors; the top three advanced to next month’s world championships. Overall, the weekend was a crushing setback, especially since Richardson tweeted in July 2021 that “I promise I’ll be your World Champ next year.”
She was in the storm back then, right after losing her spot on the U.S. Olympic team because of smoking weed. The drug test drew as much attention as her flamboyant hair, flashy outfits and fabulous nails. Richardson was on the verge of superstardom as a fleet-footed fashion icon but instead became a notorious cautionary tale.
Failing to back up her boast isn’t the worst thing. Athletes have to believe in themselves and some say it out loud. But losses can be followed by words and actions that demonstrate growth and maturity.
Richardson didn’t show much of either in a video “to my haters. I would say ‘kiss my ass’ but y’all can’t afford it,” she posted on Instagram, laying on her back and spreading her legs to make the task easier. A caption read: “To the one that swear they know me and my story and think track run my life.”
Track might not run her life—nor should it—but the sport put her existence on blast. She has profited off the profile and the platform that track provides, placing her among the most recognizable stars in her field. And she’ll live with that for quite some time, even if winning time is already over.
A friend of mine who’s a former track star says Richardson is more than likely done. Yes, she won the 200 meters and was second in the 100 meters at an event shortly before the national championships. But that field didn’t include the most talented sprinters. Last week, against the nation’s best, Richardson’s times weren’t competitive. Afterward, she talked about the media’s performance, not her own.
“I’m coming to speak, not on just on my behalf, but on all athletes’ behalf, that when you guys do interviews, y’all should respect athletes more,” she told reporters. “Y’all should understand them, coming from whether they’re winning, whether they’re losing, whatever the case may be, athletes deserve way more respect than when y’all just come and throw cameras into their faces.”
Heading into the national championships, she expressed regret about going on the Today show after her suspension, an interview that intensified the spotlight. “I wish I never did this,” she quote tweeted the year-old clip from Today. “I wish I had the choice when it was time for me to tell my story.”
If she wasn’t ready, the blame lies with her advisers. The media always wants the story, and savvy stars know how to make it work for both parties. High-profile basketball and football players often are further along at her age, more experienced with mainstream media at college and in pro leagues.
Richardson has learned on the fly after a painful chapter. Imagine missing the Olympics for smoking weed after finding out during an interview that your biological mother died. (It’s ridiculous that the substance is banned, but those are the rules and knew it.)
Last August, in her first competitive event since missing the Olympics, Richardson finished dead last in the 100 meters at the Prefontaine Classic. She might never run as fast as she did at the Olympic Trials and might never reach the world championships. There’s only been a handful of track athletes like Allyson Felix, Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt, superstars who remain on top for years and years.
Richardson is fun to watch and I hope we see more. But there’s no guarantee and no telling what comes next. Maybe she’ll start a media venture as suggested. Whatever the case, she’ll have to figure it out like the other 22-year-old Black women. Bless their hearts.
The village is here to help if allowed.
Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at blackdoorventures.com/deron
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