Mere hours after Norway's Karsten Warholm inspired the home crowd in Oslo by breaking the 400-meter hurdle world record, the Jamaica Gleaner broke the news that American 100-meter star Sha'Carri Richardson had tested positive for cannabis at the Olympic Trials and may miss the Olympics.
Whether you blame Richardson (for taking the drug) or the WADA Code (for banning it in the first place), ours is a sport that cannot seem to stop shooting itself in the foot right now. The Olympic Trials were incredible as always, we have seen three world records in the last two weeks, and the Olympics are on the horizon. Yet three of the fastest Americans in marquee disciplines (Christian Coleman, Shelby Houlihan, and Richardson) look set to miss the biggest meet of them all and the biggest chance to burst into mainstream consciousness.
There is enough good news in the sport right now that their absences need not overwhelm the Games. In the 400m hurdles alone, you have Warholm vs. Rai Benjamin and Sydney McLaughlin vs. Dalilah Muhammad; if the Olympics consisted of solely those two races they'd still be pretty incredible.
But it will be impossible to ignore Richardson's absence should she miss Tokyo. With 1.4 million followers on Instagram, she is one of track & field's most popular athletes, and her heroics at the Olympic Trials generated all sorts of interest, with the likes of Michelle Obama tweeting her congratulations. The Olympic stage could have propelled her to another level of stardom; instead, she may have to wait three more years for that chance.
The Games, as they say, will go on. There will be those 400 hurdles showdowns, and the men's 1500, and Athing Mu in the 800, and Joshua Cheptegei and Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Eliud Kipchoge and...it's still going to be a great meet. But right now, we can't help thinking about the Olympics without also thinking of who won't be there.
Grace was only 7th in the 800 at the Olympic Trials, but four days (and almost 5,000 miles) later, she won her first career Diamond League. McSweyn ran 3:48.37 to break Craig Mottram's Aussie record as Eilish McColgan broke Paula Radcliffe's 5000 record by running 14:28.55 behind Hellen Obiri's victory.
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The 39-year-old Bekele was left off the team in 2016 and has been left off again in 2021 after failing to run the Ethiopian Olympic trials on May 1 even though in his last marathon he just missed the WR. And Elle Purrier and Laua Muir saw their medal hopes rise substantially as Gudaf Tsegay has been entered in the 5000.
A day after 18-year old Christine Mboma of Namibia ran a shocking 48.54 400 meters, she is now listed as "withdrawn" on the World Athletics Olympic 400 page. The natural assumption most are going to make is that she did not meet the World Athletics eligibility regulations for female classification that apply to running events from 400 meters up to the mile.