FACT: Sha’Carri Richardson is the fastest woman in the world. Later this month, she’s heading to the 2024 Olympics in Paris to continue to prove it. Ahead of that feat, the track-and-field athlete spoke with Vogue for their August magazine cover! She broke down her mantra, “I’m not back; I’m better,” and how her grandmother, Big Momma, molded her into who she is.

“I don’t just mean I’m a better runner,” she told Vogue. “It’s beyond that. I’m better at being Sha’Carri. I’m better at being myself.”

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Sha’Carri Richardson & Big Momma Betty Harp’s Relationship

Sha’Carri Richardson told writer Maya Singer that she knew for sure running was her calling in fifth grade. That’s when she beat her aunt Shay in a race for the first time after multiple tries. Shay Richardson was the reigning family track star before her niece came along.

Auntie never took it easy in the races with her niece, and when Sha’Carri finally got her W, it set her on the path she is today. But Big Momma Harp is who made Sha’Carri “tough” and who kept her on the road to becoming Olympic-qualified.

“I’m a strong woman, I’ve overcome obstacles in my life. So I knew what I was talking about when, from time to time, things got hard and she’d want to quit—and I’d say, ‘Don’t start nothing and don’t finish it. You start, you finish. Whatever happens, you keep going, you hear?”

In addition to making her resilient, Richardson says her Big Momma is her “foundation.”

“Everything I am, it’s because of that strong, wise Black woman. Everything. I mean, I’ve been blessed because I’ve had other people in my life who have helped me along. But the foundation, that’s her,” Sha’Carri affirmed.

With Vogue, Sha’Carri kept some things private, especially details like how she came into Big Momma’s care. She also didn’t deep-dive into the incident that disqualified her from her first attempt at the Olympics—testing positive for THC. She later admitted to smoking marijuana out of “emotional panic” after a reporter revealed to her that her mother had died. Rather than let the backlash and fallout eat at her, she privately worked on herself and her calling. 

Instead of spilling all her business to the magazine, the star athlete fell back on her mantra. She’s not back, she’s “better.” Better includes making running her “24/7 lifestyle,” including nutrition, sleep, and training.

“You keep showing up,” Richardson explained. “No matter what. Most people, they only think of track every four years. The Olympics, that’s all there is—those few seconds on TV. But for me, track is my life on a day-to-day basis. Everything I do—what I eat, what I drink, if I stay up too late—it’s all reflected on the track. Every choice. That’s what the world doesn’t see.”

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