TOKYO (AP) — If you thought they were fast on the track, try asking a sprinter about Sha’Carri Richardson.
Very few of the women who blazed down the very fast Olympic track Friday were willing to address the situation surrounding the American sprinter who was absent from the 100-meter field at the Tokyo Games following a doping ban.
It seemed all that was missing from the mixed zone, where reporters spend a few seconds talking to athletes after the races, were a few sets of starting blocks.
“No comment,” Jamaican standout Elaine Thompson-Herah said moments after running the second-fastest time of 10.82 seconds to begin her Olympic title defense.
“No comment,” her teammate, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, echoed moments later after running 10.84.
“I’m not going to talk about Sha’Carri,” Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria said.
Richardson had her title from the U.S. trials stripped — and with it, her spot in the 100 at the Tokyo Olympics — after testing positive for marijuana shortly after the race. She received a 30-day suspension that left her eligible for the Olympic relays but the U.S. didn’t give her a spot.
Okagbare did elaborate briefly.
“I don’t know how that’s going to help right now,” she said. “Regardless of who’s here and who’s not here, we’re going to compete. Everybody here is great as well. I think everybody here is great. Regardless of who’s here and who’s not here, we’re still going to give the crowd and the fans a good show.”
Besides Richardson, the hot topic was the track, which was designed to be more responsive and increase performance.
So far, so fast.
There were seven athletes who ran 11 seconds or better, including Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Ivory Coast leading the way with a time of 10.78 seconds.
As a comparison: There were two sprinters who went 11 seconds or faster in the first round at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
Four national records were set — both Swiss sprinters actually went under 11 — there were seven personal bests and an area record (for Africa) from Ta Lou.
Watch out, that Olympic mark could be in jeopardy. The record of 10.62 seconds was set by the late Florence Griffith Joyner at the 1988 Seoul Games. The sprinter knowns as Flo-Jo also holds the world record at 10.49.
“I don’t know how to assess the track,” Fraser-Pryce said. “Based on the times, yes, it’s a fast track. In terms of how I feel, I feel OK. I feel light. I definitely feel confident.”
Taking Richardson’s spot in the 100 on the U.S. team was Jenna Prandini. She advanced to the semifinals by finishing third in her heat.
No extra pressure, she insisted, trying to fill in for Richardson.
“I’m just out there trying to do my best,” Prandini said. “That’s all I can do, come out here and be the best version of myself.”
Prandini said she was already practicing for the 200 when she found out about her inclusion in the 100. She added she had no idea at that time just who she was replacing.
“I just got a call and they asked me if I’d run the 100 and I said yes,” she explained. “That was it. I didn’t know the rest of the story. … I’m happy to be out here and excited to get this thing going.”
Richardson brought a presence to the track, with her long nails, her flowing hair — it was orange at trials — and of course her charisma.
Asked if something was missing without her around, American sprinter Teahna Daniels responded: “I mean, I would have loved for her to be here. She’s such a great talent, you know, of course we would have liked to have her here. But, you know, things happen.”
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