One of the most exciting parts of the Olympics is getting to know the athletes who break records and make history in their respective sports, making it look effortless despite training for years and years — and in this particular case, through a global pandemic. One such athlete to watch ahead of the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo is Sha'Carri Richardson, a 21-year-old Dallas native making headlines for not only slaying at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials and securing her spot in Tokyo, but for her fiery hair, signature glam, and fierce spirit.
Richardson absolutely crushed the 100-meter dash during the qualifying event at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, coming in first place at just 10.86 seconds. The win — which fittingly took place during the first national celebration of Juneteenth in the U.S. — cemented her spot on Team USA, where she'll head next month to compete alongside the other track and field athletes who qualified too. (Related: Runners and 'Supermommies' Allyson Felix and Quanera Hayes Both Qualify for the Tokyo Olympics Two Years After Giving Birth)
At just 21 years old, she's not only the youngest of Team USA's three 100-meter qualifiers, but she's also already one of the fastest women in the world. Back in 2019, she won the NCAA title as a freshman at Louisiana State University in a college record–breaking 10.75 seconds. Then, this April, she ran the sixth-fastest women's 100 in history at 10.72 seconds (the fastest wind-legal time — read: sans tailwind — for an American athlete in nearly a decade). Just before qualifying for the Olympics on Saturday, she clocked a speedy wind-aided 10.64 seconds in the 100-meter dash, but the tailwind prevented it from counting in record purposes, according to NBC Sports.
While she's clearly one of the brightest young athletes out there right now, her success is historic in so many ways beyond just her slayage in running sneakers. Richardson, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, tweeted a rainbow emoji ahead of her incredible trails performance on Saturday, which equally fittingly fell during Pride Month.
Of course, she then complemented her performance with stunning long lashes, even longer pink acrylic nails, and vibrant orange hair, which she told USA Today was her girlfriend's choice. "My girlfriend actually picked my color," Richardson revealed. "She said it like spoke to her, the fact that it was just so loud and vibrant, and that's who I am."
Though Richardson hasn't opened up about her relationship, her presence as a Black, openly queer athlete no doubt means a lot to fellow young athletes and sports lovers who so rarely get to see athletes who look like them or share their identity. Professional athletes like Richardson and football player Carl Nassib (who recently became the first NFL player to publicly identify as gay) living as their authentic selves can only help serve to chip away at societal stigmas and stereotypes about marginalized identities in sports — a major win for all of us in the end.
After she found out she was headed to Tokyo, Richardson immediately ran to her grandmother, Betty Harp, who was proudly waiting in the stands. Her family — and especially her grandmother — means the world to her, as she explained to reporters afterwards. "My grandmother is my heart, my grandmother is my superwoman, so to be able to have her here at the biggest meet of my life, and being able to cross the finish line and run up the steps knowing I'm an Olympian now, it just felt amazing," she said.
Richardson revealed she'd lost her biological mother the week before the trials, which only added to the power of her determination to succeed. She told ESPN, "My family has kept me grounded. This year has been crazy for me…Finding out my biological mother passed away and still choosing to pursue my dreams, still coming out here, still here to make the family that I do still have on this earth proud." (Related: Olympic Runner Alexi Pappas Is Out to Change How Mental Health Is Seen In Sports)
"And the fact [is] nobody knows what I go through," she continued. "Everybody has struggles and I understand that, but y'all see me on this track and y'all see the poker face I put on, but nobody but them and my coach know what I go through on a day-to-day basis. I'm highly grateful for them. Without them, there would be no me. Without my grandmother, there would be no Sha'Carri Richardson. My family is my everything, my everything until the day I'm done."
Her longtime loved ones and newfound fans alike are no doubt excited to see her achieve her dreams by making it to the Olympics next month. The only question that remains? What color hair she'll be sporting. Stay tuned, because she's surely going to serve some unforgettable looks — and run some equally legendary times.