US Olympic trials: Sha'Carri Richardson misses out on qualifying for Paris in women's 200m

EUGENE, Ore. — Sha'Carri Richardson knew she was defeated.

The American sprinter slowed down as she approached the finish line, feeling she did not have enough energy left to chase the three women ahead of her.

Gabby Thomas proved her superiority in the much-anticipated final event of the women's 200m at the US Olympic trials, finishing first in a time of 21.81 seconds. Brittany Brown and Mackenzie Long also punched their tickets to Paris by finishing second and third respectively on Saturday.

Richardson finished fourth in 22.16 seconds, dashing her hopes of a sprint double in Paris this summer. She had established herself as a favourite for Olympic gold after dominating the women's 100m on the opening weekend of the trials.

As Thomas, Brown and Long celebrated with joyous hugs after crossing the finish line, Richardson was gracious in defeat. She flashed a smile and clapped for her countrywomen heading to Paris.

How does Richardson feel about focusing solely on the 100m in Paris? Were her legs heavy on Saturday after running three rounds of 100m and three rounds of 200m in eight days? Only Richardson knows the answers to these questions. She did not speak to reporters on Saturday, just as she did not during the Olympic trials.

Thomas winning the women's 200m was no surprise. The race has long been her specialty. Thomas won a bronze medal in the 200m at the Tokyo Olympics and a silver at last year's world championships. Then she decided not to run the 400m at the trials last weekend to make sure her legs were fresh for her signature race.

“It took a lot of discipline and patience to sit out the first half of the trials so I could run a really good 200m,” Thomas said. “It was really hard for me to look back at those 400m. I was here in Eugene, just training for it. But I think ultimately it was the right decision.”

Richardson was also unable to catch Brown and Long, which is a big blow. The 100m may be Richardson's best race, but she won a bronze medal in the 200m at the world championships last summer. Her time in Saturday's final was also slower than the sub-22 second runs she ran in the first round and semifinals of the Olympic trials.

Brown and Long both ran so fast that Richardson had to be at her best to overtake either of them. Long said she worked really hard in the last 60 metres and kept reminding herself, “No matter what happens, don't break your form.”

When Long crossed the finish line, it was a bittersweet moment for the recent Ole Miss graduate. Sweet because it meant she had qualified for Paris. Bitter because her late mother wasn't there to see it all.

Long's mother died suddenly of a heart attack at age 45, just before track season began. Long has been running in her mother's memory ever since.

“Crossing that line, knowing that I'm now an Olympian, is pretty surreal,” Long said, holding back tears. “I know my mom is smiling from cheek to cheek, I know she's proud of me. That's all I could ever want.”

Thomas was among those who had an idea that Long would make the Olympic team. She said she had a dream Friday night that she and Long would place in the top three.

Thomas laughed when told that Long should have already known about that.

“I didn't want to make anything bad,” the 200m champion said with a smile.

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