By Amy Tennery
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Sha’Carri Richardson is in her prime and leading the U.S. effort to break up the Jamaican reign of dominance over the women’s 100 metres when the World Championships kick off in Budapest this week.
The fan favorite lost her place at the Tokyo Olympics after a positive cannabis test and failed to qualify for worlds last year in Eugene, Oregon, but put those disappointments behind her to produce the best season of her career in 2023.
Budapest will be the ultimate proving ground for the Texas-born dynamo after years of enormous expectations, beginning in 2019 when she broke the 100 metres NCAA collegiate record at just 19 years old.
“I’m so blessed and thankful, I feel at peace,” she told reporters after winning the Doha Diamond League meet in May in 10.76 seconds.
“All I do is the best I do and I’m excited to do it.”
Richardson kept a busy schedule this season and her record was unblemished until a second-place finish in the Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix last month.
She produced four of the top 10 fastest times of 2023, including the best performance of her career, a 10.71 in the U.S. championships heats last month.
That saw her briefly in command of the world lead until Jamaican Shericka Jackson bested her a day later with a 10.65 in Kingston.
Days after that, Richardson took the top of the podium in 10.76 at Silesia Diamond League meet, two hundredths of a second ahead of Jackson.
The 2022 silver medallist Jackson is hoping to keep alive the Jamaican streak in the 100 metres, and her compatriots have taken gold in six of the last eight finals.
“I’ve gotten, I think, a lot faster since the Jamaican trials,” Jackson told Athletics Weekly. “Definitely expecting good things.”
Their rivalry – Jackson finished second behind Richardson at the Doha Diamond League – could produce fireworks in Budapest, where the women’s 100 metres will be one of the most compelling events.
Richardson, who is also on the entry list for the 200 metres, will be without some notable team mates in Budapest after the Americans dominated the medal table a year ago.
Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone broke her own world record in the 400 metres hurdles to take the championship last year and was among the most highly anticipated athletes of the meet as she was expected to try 400 metres flat event.
But after claiming the world lead in 48.74 seconds last month, she announced days ago that she would miss worlds due to a knee issue.
On the men’s side, Michael Norman will not defend his 400 metres title, citing an “extremely frustrating season” and his desire to focus on the 2024 Paris Olympics.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York)