LOS ANGELES, United States, (AFP) – US sprint star Sha'Carri Richardson says she is making up for lost time as she puts the turmoil of the past two years behind her.
The 23-year-old Texan headlines a star-studded lineup at this weekend's Los Angeles Grand Prix, in what is one of the strongest track and field events ever held in the city.
The meeting at UCLA's Drake Stadium marks the latest stage on what has been a dazzling start to 2023 for Richardson, the world's fastest woman over 100m this year.
She posted a world-leading 10.76sec in the Doha Diamond League meeting on May 5, and also clocked a wind-assisted 10.57sec at the Miramar Invitational in Florida in April.
Throw in an impressive 200m victory in 22.07sec in Nairobi a fortnight ago, and it is easy to see why Richardson could well be ready to make a serious tilt for honours at the World Championships in Budapest in August.
Richardson was infamously barred from the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021 after testing positive for marijuana.
She then saw her hopes of challenging for a medal at last year's World Championships go up in smoke when she bombed out of the US trials.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, Richardson said her recent strong form was the result of a new outlook on life and increasing maturity.
"I went through a rough time in track and field," Richardson said of her recent troubles on and off the track.
"I went through a lot. I had to learn a lot, I had to grow a lot and I had to mature.
"I just had to understand that no matter what happens on the outside, my faith, my support system and the people that support me are going to understand always.
"So, I'm not back, I'm better. These last few years I've shown you all what I can do. It was just me that was standing in my way."
- Angry no more -
Richardson said that while she never doubted her own ability, she had allowed "anger" to get the better of her in 2022.
"These last two years I've always had the ingredients to be the athlete I know I can be and that I train to be," Richardson said.
"I feel like where I am now, I've always been this person – it's just been locked in me.
"Last year I was angry. I saw red everywhere I went. And I was going to make sure everybody felt that as well.
"Now I'm at a point where I see me. And I want everybody everywhere I go to see me as well. Whether I'm running fast, or sitting here talking to you guys."
With her penchant for regular changes of hair colour and brightly painted nails, Richardson has earned inevitable comparisons to the late Florence Griffith-Joyner throughout her career.
Richardson says while she embraces those comparisons, she is intent on forging her own legacy.
"I'm definitely flattered of course, to be compared to the greatest of all time," she said. "Flo-Jo just strived to be herself whenever she stepped on the track.
"So as much as I love that comparison, I'm just me. I'm just Sha'Carri Richardson, and I plan on being Sha'Carri Richardson when I leave this sport."
Richardson faces a stiff challenge in Saturday's 100m, where rivals include in-form compatriot Aleia Hobbs, and Ivory Coast's Marie-Josee Talou.