A Mile Full of Thoughts on Sha’Carri Richardson.

By Jesse Specs Spellman

Sha’Carri Richardson started her track and field career in early 2021 and looked to be trending towards an amazing journey filled with many successes and not so many failures. The thing about that is life at any point can decide to throw a curveball at any given moment. How we deal with those curveballs that life tends to throw at us leads us to a few choices. We can essentially roll with the punches, readjust to stay on track or essentially lose focus all together. 

The lead up to Sha’Carri Olympic qualifying was one of the best that we’ve seen throughout the years as she steamed through her competition at close to world record paces as she continued to crush her competition in early spring of 2021. Winning her 200- and 100-meter races respectfully eventually lead to her to winning her final 100-meter individual race in 10.86 seconds making her the age of 21 the youngest women to win the event since Alice Brown did it back in 1980. Just like that on that fateful day of June 19th, 2021, during her post race with her grandmother by her side, she revealed that her mother made her transition to the ancestors. We all know that’s not necessarily the best place to break the news, but we can only imagine the thoughts that were racing through her head. We take this as…Strike one.

Now I personally know after hearing news of that matter when you’re in a place so high on joy you tend to crash land down to earth fast in a ball of emotions. The problem from a human standpoint is that if we don’t have anywhere to channel that energy into something outside of what we know best, it can be difficult. One thing we speak about in this magazine is the importance of mental health and wellness, i.e., our healthy chats. The best way to get through our emotions is to talk about it whether it be with a loved one or a close friend. I’m not going to assume or even say I know that she had that person to turn to, part of me feels like she didn’t. Part of me feels like the 21-year-old in her was filled with emotions that experience wasn’t there to help her deal with. We were all 21 before and I’m pretty sure most of our younger selves at age 21 had no clue what maturity was. Most of us were in college just going day by day as college for us can feel like the last stop from a mature standpoint before we must deal with the responsibilities of being an adult and handling things responsibly. Going into the Tokyo Olympics we all didn’t know or was aware of whom she had in her corner and outside of the track, which was her sanctuary, her peace where she can block out the world for 10 seconds that was now gone. She was forced to find another way to be calm, be still and to ease her nerves. That was through marijuana…. Strike Two. 

Now as we all know going into the Olympics you need to be prepared for the random drug test that comes with playing in the Olympic games, as some tests are random which test for banned substances some are expected. We were all excited heading into the Tokyo games, I know I was. I was super excited for the track and field events, excited to see Sha’Carri on the track in the 100-meter, 200-meter and the relays vs Shelly Ann, Elaine and the Jamaican women’s team which are on the most insane historic run. We were all excited, eventually Sha’Carri’s faulty decision caught up to her. On July 1st almost exactly one month before the Olympic games it was revealed that she tested positive for marijuana, DEVASTATING. Surprisingly we all gathered behind her and created petitions to have the rules changed to let her compete. Sadly, rules are rules, and they must be upheld. A devastating mistake on her part she apologized and dealt with the ramifications of her decision. Was she wrong yes, did she understand her mistake yes, was she mature enough in dealing with it no but as I mentioned before we were all somewhat feisty and emotional 21 year old’s at one point in our life and let’s not forget that….Strike 3. 

Now out of the Olympic games the positive in that decision is that essentially Sha’Carri was forced to sit and watch and if we all know about sitting, which is what we all did it for pretty much the entire year of 2020 due to Covid. While sitting there are two things we tend to do, we can either learn and become better mentally and/or physically or we can be still and not challenge ourselves thus remaining in the same mindset that we started with. For 30 days she sat suspended, forced to watch 2 weeks of Olympic competition while also being dropped from the women’s US relay team. Most would think this was indeed the low point, missing the Olympics isn’t something you just let go as most athlete’s train or dedicate 4 years of their life to. So, to essentially be forced to sit and watch something you’ve essentially trained 4 years for after losing your mom isn’t an easy thing to come back from. We hold athletes to such a high standard that we tend to forget that they are humans first, regular people like us that make mistakes. Only difference is that their mistakes are magnified to a higher level and standard than ours.

Fast forward a few weeks as we are now past the 2021 Olympics, with Elaine Thompson and Shelly Ann Frazier Pryce coming off a dominating 2021 games all eyes turned to The Prefontaine Classic, for us it was our chance to see the fastest runners all on the track together post-Olympic games. Most of us thought we were going to see what we were expecting to see on the grandest stage. On the track all at the same time the fastest women ever Elaine Thompson, decorated Olympic star Shelly Ann and numerous Olympic athletes. Now remember when we mentioned that missing the games was essentially the low point? Well, that point came on August 21st to the tune of 11.14 seconds. Let’s break this time down for a second. Now if you run consistently, you essentially know what an extended break can do to you if you aren’t training as it’s hard to keep up with the competition that is at its peak. Sha’Carri went on to finish in last place by a wide margin. When I saw that, to me there were a few thoughts that crossed my mind.

  1. She was humbled.
  2. She didn’t train.
  3. She didn’t take the time to learn from her mistakes.
  4. She thought raw young energetic talent was going to carry her to a top finish.
Elaine Thompson and Shelly Ann 1st and 2nd place finish while Sha’Carri finishes last.

The following question is where does she go from here? Sha’Carri who’s path was so bright in the late spring was now dimly lit towards the end of the summer. We all look and assume from the outside looking in and we’re so quick to tear down rather than to uplift. We also live in a world where everything we do is so accessible where it’s hard to hide our mistakes. I believe we should not try to tear her down. Instead, let’s take a step back and give her a chance to correct her mistakes and actions. Like I said before we were all 21 at once in our lives and I’m pretty sure if we spoke to our 21-year-old selves there are some actions that we’d try to correct. She’s still very young and she’s still working those correct individuals into her corner. With the right people, the right teachers I truly believe that she’ll be back stronger and better. We’re starting to see those flashes again as she finished 4th in the 200 meter in Brussels

A Mile of Thoughts with Jesse Specs Spellman

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