EEUGENE, Oregon — Sha’Carri Richardson’s Tokyo Olympic summer didn’t unfold as she expected.
Neither did her return to the track.
The 2018 Carter graduate finished last among nine women in the 100-meter dash at the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday afternoon.
Richardson crossed the line at Hayward Field in 11.14 seconds, about half a second slower than her personal best (10.72 seconds), and 0.6 seconds behind winner Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica.
Thompson-Herah (10.54 seconds), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.73) and Shericka Jackson (10.83 seconds) comprised the all-Jamaica podium Saturday, the same order they finished July 31 in the Olympic final.
Texas graduate Teahna Daniels (10.90) finished fourth with a career-best mark.
Richardson, who also withdrew from the 200 meters field shortly before the 100-meter race, posted the slowest reaction time out of the blocks and never appeared to find her top speed down the straightaway in her first performance since her Olympics-dooming suspension.
But moments later, she reverted back to typical form: proud, defiant and confident in assuring fans her result didn’t foreshadow what’s to come.
“Count me out if you want to,” Richardson said in an on-track interview with NBC just after the race. “Talk all the [expletive] you want because I’m here to stay. I’m not done. I’m the sixth fastest woman in this game, ever. And nobody can ever take that from me. Congratulations to the winners, but they are not done seeing me yet. Period.”
Richardson clapped when the stadium announcer highlighted Thompson-Herah’s time as the world’s best this season, but she didn’t break stride as she walked directly into the tunnel and past reporters in the mixed zone.
The 21-year-old Dallas native was eager to move past the latest twist in a summer of upheaval.
At the Olympic trials at the same Hayward Field in mid-June, Richardson dominated the 100-meter races and emerged as the U.S. team’s next star sprinter and marketing personality.
But she later tested positive for marijuana, which she said she ingested to cope with the “emotional panic” of learning her biological mother died just before the biggest race of her life.
About two weeks later, news of her suspension for a failed drug test — and disqualification from the Olympic team — became public, and Richardson sparked more national conversation and debate, support and criticism.
Richardson has become accustomed to the attention since she was a teenager at Carter.
She dyes her hair a different color for almost every meet, and debuted a crimped blonde-and-blue, free-flowing style Saturday at her girlfriend’s recommendation. She’s worn long, sparkly nails since high school and often engages fans and cameras with her outgoing personality.
During a warm-up jog down the straightaway before this prestigious Diamond League race, Richardson flapped her arms to the crowd’s roar.
“I feel like the reason why I’m such — I don’t want to say a big deal — but the different flavor that I bring: I’m not like the traditional athlete that you see,” Richardson said Friday. “For that, some people hate it. Some people love it. But at the end of the day, when I step onto the track, I do what it is everybody else is doing. I just look a different way doing it.
“We all have the same mind-sets, knowing that we want to win. We just have our own different approaches doing it. But at the end of the day, no one should disrespect the next person or the next athlete for a simple cultural difference, color differences or appearances.”
Most of Richardson’s development this summer, however, happened out of the spotlight.
She watched from Florida, where she trains year-round, as Thompson-Herah set a new Olympic record to win gold. The 10.72-second time Richardson logged in April would’ve earned her silver.
She also sought therapy in the wake of her suspension. Though she hasn’t returned to Dallas since trials, Richardson said she’s grown closer with her family and girlfriend and started writing regularly — which she used to think was “kind of silly” — to process her thoughts and express her feelings more openly.
The cool weather conditions Saturday in Eugene, Ore., and the roar from the Hayward Field crowd didn’t reflect the hot, humid, fan-free setting she would’ve encountered in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.
But Richardson’s company in her return offered a pseudo-second chance at Olympic-level competition.
She’s confident she’ll be ready next time.
“This is one race,” Richardson said. “I’m not done. You know what I’m capable of.”