Let us not build Sha’Carri Richardson up only to tear her down

Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It is a sad state of affairs on society as a whole when certain individuals who achieve certain moments of fame are hyped up and loved on one moment and then are made to be everyone’s social media punching bags the next.

What can be even sadder is when those individuals did absolutely nothing to hurt those people that are hurling all sorts of hurtful jokes and memes at said celebrity, but some only do so in search of their own fifteen minutes of fame.

Sha’Carri Richardson, who was prohibited from competing in this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo for marijuana of all things, appears to be a perfect example of this dynamic. This past weekend, she competed in her first race since the Olympics concluded – the Prefontaine Classic at the track and field hotbed that is the University of Oregon at Eugene.

In that race, she finished ninth out of nine competitors. What probably got just as many headlines as Richardson’s last-place finish was her own response to her performance in Eugene after the race.

It is certainly a sign that sports culture is healing itself when an athlete is not overtly critical of themselves after a performance that, deep down inside, Richardson knows could have been better.

First of all – Richardson is correct. It is only one race – and one race that the track and field world should be overjoyed that she ran into. Sadly, lots of people only pay much attention to track field in the build-up to the Olympics and during the Games themselves. Because of all of the hype that has surrounded Richardson since she was unfairly ousted from the Olympics, this race was significant because it was her first competition since then.

In fact – it is also somewhat unfortunate that Richardson (and her post-race remarks) were a bigger story than who actually won the race in the first place. There was plenty of Jamaica on the podium in Eugene as there was following the 100 meter race in Tokyo. Elaine Thompson Herah finished first, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price was second and Shericka Jackson finished third.

It was the exact same finish was what happened in Tokyo.

We can congratulate the three Jamaican sprinters for their outstanding performances in Eugene without turning it into a sign that Richardson is washed. After all, as she herself said in her post-race remarks – it is one race. Unfortunately, because today’s sports fan is susceptible to the hot take, every event is looked at through the prism of it being a microcosm of an athlete’s career.

Richardson is not done – in fact, far from it. Because this year’s Olympics were delayed by a year on account of the pandemic, Richardson will have three years to prepare, train and compete in upcoming events prior to the Olympics in Paris in 2024. Our guess is that she will remember how tumultuous the period leading up to the Tokyo Olympics was and she will make sure that her preparation for the Paris Games is a lot smoother.

And as someone pointed out after the race – Richardson is still dealing with the loss of her mother – which is why she had smoked weed in the first place. It was a coping mechanism to deal with what has to be still a very trying time in her life away from the track.

If only more of us had the confidence she has after a performance that perhaps we were not entirely satisfied with. Because that response from her symbolizes that she will not allow only her sport to define who she is as a human being. Richardson is not going to give what many in the predominantly male sports media want and that is for her mental health to be defined by her athletic performance. Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles have shown that as well.

There is a reason why our Black queens are Black queens – is because they know they are wearing tiaras and crowns on their heads and they know that win, lose or draw, those tiaras and crowns will always be there.

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