Sha’Carri Richardson became the latest member of the U.S. Olympic team this Saturday, thanking her girlfriend and her extended family.
The 21-year-old competed against six other athletes in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials in Eugene, Oregon in the 100-meter dash. She shot past the other athletes with a time of 10.86 seconds, which The Cut notes is just over a second behind the top time of legendary sprinter Usain Bolt, who is over a foot taller than Richardson.
But that’s not even her fastest time: in April, she clocked in at 10.72 seconds at the 2021 Miramar Invitational meet in Miami, making her the sixth-fastest woman to ever run the event.
Richardson is impossible to miss on the track, sporting long nails and flowing hair, the color of which she changes regularly. After qualifying for the 2021 Tokyo games, Richardson said that her orange hair, which she says symbolizes “running on fire,” was chosen by her girlfriend. “She said it spoke to her, the fact that it was just so loud and vibrant, and that’s who I am,” Richardson said to USA Today.
Writer Zoraya McDonald noted in a tweet that Richardson’s signature hair color “turns into a flame emoji when she hits top speed” on the track.
While Richardson hasn’t made any “official” public declarations regarding her sexuality, she tweeted a singular rainbow emoji on Saturday. One Twitter user also shared screenshots from Richardson’s social media, in which she previously talked about celebrating Pride month and her girlfriend.
Immediately after this weekend’s qualifier, Richardson ran into the stands for an emotional embrace with her grandmother, whom she called her “heart” and her “superwoman.”
“To have her here at the biggest meet of my life, it’s just amazing,” Richardson told the magazine Runner’s World. “That probably felt better than winning the races, just being able to hold her after becoming an Olympian.”
The hug had particular resonance for Richardson. She revealed in a post-race interview that her mother had passed away just the week prior.
“Last week, 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,” Richardson told a reporter for NBC. “And the fact [is] nobody knows what I go through. 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,” she added. “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."
Richardson’s victory comes after she smashed the 100-meter collegiate record at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships, leading her to forgo her NCAA standing as a freshman at Louisiana State University so she could turn pro. The milestone was particularly impressive for the 5’1” athlete, who NBC reports was told throughout high school that she wasn’t going to “go to college and dominate those women,” only for her to make history during her first year.
“When you stand five feet one inch tall, you get told your entire life what you can and cannot do,” an NBC commentator remarked prior to the race. “That chip on her shoulder is because every time she’s been told that, she’s been able to overcome those odds and get it done.”
According to ESPN, Richardson will also be competing in the 200-meter qualifier, which will take place on Thursday. She’s expected to blow away the competition in that event as well; her preliminary qualifying time is 22.11 seconds, the fastest in the field.
The 2020 Olympics — which were delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — will kick off in Tokyo on July 23 and conclude on August 8.
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue