Sha'Carri Richardson overcomes wobbly start, untied shoe for win in first heat at Olympic trials

Richardson will be back on the track Saturday for the semifinal and final

Her burst out of the starting block was more like a wobble. Sha'Carri Richardson also raced with one of her shoelaces untied.

None of it mattered much on the opening night of U.S. Olympic track trials. Even in a race that was far from a masterpiece, Richardson was the fastest 100-meter sprinter in Friday's preliminary round and set herself up to race for a spot in the Paris Olympics.

She finished in 10.88 seconds — fastest of any of the 34 sprinters spread over four races, and a mere .02 seconds off the time she ran three years ago, when she won the trials, only to have the victory erased by a positive test for marijuana.

“That tells me I’m prepared,” she said in a post-race interview with NBC. “I just need to put it all together.”

Richardson will be back on the track Saturday for the semifinals. If she finishes in the top two in that race, she’ll go for the title less than two hours later. The top three finishers in the final will head to Paris, where Richardson would try to add that title to the world championship she won last year.

The 24-year-old sprinter was the headliner on opening night at University of Oregon's Hayward Field, wearing a gold-and-black running suit with her trademark, long nails to match. But when the gun sounded, she bounced out of the block and warbled across her lane as she struggled to get upright. She was briefly in last place. Not until she was a good 10 steps down the track did she hit her stride, then hit overdrive and pass the other eight racers.

“I definitely didn’t have the start I’ve been training to have in this moment,” she said. “But I’m still not panicking. I’m staying patient and knowing no matter what’s going on, to continue to run my race.”

Other winners in the 100 prelims included 2022 national champion Melissa Jefferson and NCAA 100 and 200-meter champion McKenzie Long of Ole Miss. Noah Lyles starts his quest for the Olympic 100 in the men's prelims Saturday.

For Richardson, things went sideways shortly after her victory at trials in 2021, when her marijuana positive was revealed, after which she disclosed she had been battling with depression in the wake of her mother’s recent death and other issues.

Ever since, she has been on a long comeback that she looks at in a different way — “I’m not back, I’m better.” And, by almost every count — especially the ones the public can chart on the track — she is.

She came into trials as the reigning world champion, and also with a victory on this track last month in the Prefontaine Classic. She is the early favorite to win the Olympics in what is always a stacked field filled with Jamaicans.

Asked how she's dealing with her rising fortunes, she said, “I'm enjoying the recognition of hard work, the support that comes with it."

“The fact that the world can see so much work I've done on myself, for myself, and the world receives that, I'm appreciative and I will always show up for my fans,” she said.

10,000 METERS

Grant Fisher won the 10,000 meters in 27 minutes, 49.47 seconds and joined Woody Kinkaid and NCAA record-holder Nico Young as the first three athletes to officially earn their spots on the team at trials.

As an added bonus, they were the first three who got to sign the base of a miniature Eiffel Tower that's on display at Hayward Field this week.

Running for Northern Arizona, Young ran 26:52.72 to shave nearly 16 seconds off the men’s 10,000-meter college record in March.

“I feel like this is where I saw my season going, and to execute it today is surreal,” he said.

WILSON'S RECORD

Quincy Wilson doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet, but he now has a world record.

The 16-year-old who attends Bullis High School in Potomac, Maryland, broke the under-18 world 400-meter mark in winning his heat. Wilson finished in a time of 44.66 seconds to break the record of 44.84 set by Justin Robinson five years ago.

“I’ve been looking at it all season,” Wilson said of chasing Robinson’s time.

No nerves, either.

“I’m racing against bigger people that got brands and things like that,” Wilson said. “But to me, everybody puts their spikes on the same way as I do.”

HALFWAY MARK

Michigan State's Heath Baldwin closed Day 1 of the decathlon with a personal-best run of 48.58 seconds in the 400 meters to grab the lead at the halfway mark.

The 400 put him in front of Zach Ziemek, who won the bronze medal at 2022 world championships, which was also at Hayward Field in Eugene.

sha'carri richardson overcomes wobbly start, untied shoe for win in first heat at olympic trials

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