Recently, I have come across commercials for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Sha’Carri Richardson is a featured athlete in these promotions. As many of you already know, she is an outstanding track star whom the broader media was critical of. Richardson tested positive for THC in June of 2021, according to the New York Times. As a result, she was suspended for one month and consequently missed the 2021 Tokyo Games.

During the summer of 2021, Richardson was excelling like nobody’s business. In June of that year, she won the women’s 11-meter race, which was then nullified by her positive test result. By her own admission, Richardson learned of the death of her biological mother during this trip. Being confronted with a myriad of emotions, she made a judgment that wasn’t conducive to her professional success. But we all have made a wrong judgment call in our lives. In the grand scheme of things, Richardson is still very young and is still learning.

In the wake of this result, mainstream media had a field day with Richardson. The 23-year-old’s citing of grief as her reasoning for her use of cannabis meant nil to the masses. On the other hand, many of us understood. But respectability politics in this country is alive and well.

Turns out, how Richardson presents herself was and is still a problem for many. It’s even a problem for elders in our community. If you ask me, the beauty of Richardson is in her authenticity. To be authentic is to be brave. Richardson rocks long nails and a bevy of eccentric hairstyles. She’s tatted up and she doesn’t codeswitch to appease anyone. She shows up as I believe we all strive to. Being that her chosen path is sports, I see no issue with any of it.

There was so much uproar over how Richardson displayed her confidence. It felt like the fact that this was a young lady adjusting to so much on and off of our cameras was dismissed. And much like a lot of events in this country, that was unfortunate.

“But damn. You trained so hard. You really didn’t think ‘Nah let me chill and stay smoke free for the next few months while I put in this work?'” one person replied in response to Richardson’s “I am human” tweet.

“Or…don’t do illegal drugs when you’re about to be a superstar and set yourself and family for life,” another person tweeted.

In the wake of the media berating her in many instances, Richardson also underperformed in a few races. Richardson’s most recent loss took place this past September. She placed fourth at the Prefontaine Classic. But she only lost by a .10 margin. This past summer seemed like a redemption tour for Richardson. She has had positive influences around her who have helped her continue to be confident in her voice. She has so much confidence leaning into who she is with the media. That has also translated to recent wins.

It has also translated into featured spots on NBC programming. Despite the proverbial haters, Richardson has continued to thrive. If you ask me, that’s all derived from “keeping the main thing, the main thing.” In Sha’Carri’s case, she kept her fitness and focus paramount to begin winning again.

In sports, it’s often said that winning cures everything. And with more recent strong performances, Richardson embodies that fully so much so that she seems poised to be the next huge track star to become the face of the sport on a world stage. How apropos that the world fall in love with Richardson, in Paris.