In a sport where the difference between rising to fame and fading into obscurity can be a mere tenth of a second, an athlete's focus is usually locked towards the finish line. Unlike Basketball, where fashion was an integral part of its culture, Athletics traditionally focussed on results.
As a result, athletes rarely concentrated on appearances during the race. Some consider putting energy towards appearance a distraction. In contrast, others consider it a part of the performance strategy as famously quoted by Florence Joyner Griffith, "Dress good to look good. Look good to feel good. And feel good to run fast!". It is difficult to question the strategy of Joyner Griffth, dearly known as Flo-Jo when she has the 100m World record and multiple Olympic golds to back it up.
During the 1988 summer Olympics, she left the 100m competition to dust with a monumental 10.54s. Flo-Jo crossed the finish line with her perfect Gazelle-like form, silky-flowing hair, and manicured nails. Her achievements and charisma flooded her with media and endorsement requests. She was a blend of Blackness, Femininity, and Athleticism.
Contrary to popular belief at the time that Black Athletes only appeal to Black markets, Flo-Jo shattered the myth as she earned $2 million in Japanese endorsement deals alone. Flo-Jo broke the mould of a traditional Track and Field athlete with her one-legged suit and the hooded speed skating bodysuit she donned at the 1987 IAAF World Championships. Flo-Jo's influence is not limited to Track, evident from the one-legged catsuit Serena Williams wore at the 2021 Australian Open as a tribute to her.
But now, a new star born out of Dallas, Texas, is showing glimpses of on-track charisma that Flo-Jo had, and her name is Sha'Carri Richardson. Richardson, 21, with her long manicured nails and glaring orange hair, looked like a flash during her US Olympic trials, where she covered the 100m effortlessly in 10.86s. However, Sha'Carri, often known for her outspoken nature, told NBC during the trial, "I just want the world to know I'm that girl". And the world did take notice. When Richardson faced criticism early in her career about her hair and nails, she said, "Y'all love talking about my hair & my nails like the greatest woman to ever enter the game didn't run in style..keep hating the player and y'all right we gone let them keep talking" referring to Flo-Jo in her Instagram post in 2019.
Sha'Carri will face tough competition from two-time 100m Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce and current 200m World Champion Dina Asher smith. Fraser Pryce ran a 10.63s, 3rd fastest of all time, at the JOA Destiny Olympic meet in Kingston, Jamaica. Richardson needs to bring her A-game and then some to trouble Fraser Pryce.