Sha’Carri Richardson’s ‘Big Momma’ Speaks Out Ahead of Olympics

Sha’Carri Richardson’s ‘Big Momma’ Speaks Out Ahead of Olympics

As her star has risen as the world’s fastest woman, Sha’Carri Richardson has always honored her roots. As Vogue’s cover star ahead of the Paris Olympics, she included some of her family — her sister, an aunt, and several cousins — in her photo shoot. The next-best known member of Richardson’s family may be her grandmother Betty Harp, who she affectionately calls “Big Momma” and is the person who raised her. After both of Richardson’s Olympic-qualifying runs in 2021 and earlier this year, she ran to the stands and into Harp’s arms. In the new interview with Vogue, Harp discussed how her own strength has empowered Richardson.

“Sha’Carri’s tough; I made her tough,” Harp said. “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.” Richardson bolstered Harp’s words. “Everything I am, it’s because of that strong, wise Black woman,” she said about her grandmother. “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.”

Richardson’s tenacity was tested when, after qualifying for the 100-meter race in 2021’s Tokyo games, her spot was rescinded after testing positive for THC and U.S.A., and Track and Field did not select her to run in the 4×100-meter relay. Richardson said that she used marijuana in Oregon, where it is legal, to cope after learning of her mother’s sudden death from a reporter during an interview a few days before trials there began.


As the Paris games approach, Richardson has been repeating the mantra “I’m not back, I’m better,” in her public commentary. “I don’t just mean I’m a better runner… It’s beyond that. I’m better at being Sha’Carri,” she told Vogue. “I’m better at being myself.”

She said she keeps cool under pressure on the track by fixating on the present (“If all I’m doing is looking ahead, then I can’t be where I need to be. Which is here, now.”) and appreciating her childhood. Harp told Vogue that when Richardson is back in Texas where she grew up, she ensures her granddaughter has the privacy and support to be herself in full. “If Sha’Carri’s home, that’s private time. Nobody looking at her,” Harp said. “Just playing card games, fooling around with her cousins. Just loving her to death.”

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