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Diamond League Brussels pits Sha’Carri Richardson’s potential against Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s production

This is a column by Morgan Campbell, who writes opinions for CBC Sports. For more information on CBC Opinion Sectionplease consult the FAQs.

If you lost track of mercurial sprint star Sha’Carri Richardson after the US Trials in late June, well… she’s back. On Tuesday, she ran 11.29 seconds, on a soggy track, against a brisk headwind, to win a 100-meter race in Switzerland, and if you’re eager to load up the final weeks of the track season with storylines secondary, here we go:

The other seven runners greeted Richardson with some of the most reluctant congratulatory hugs ever filmed. Is there any drama here? A clue that his fellow professional sprinters did not appreciate his return after a long mid-season absence?

Maybe.

Let’s see what happens in Brussels, where Richardson is due to race on Friday.

Or we could think of Tuesday’s race as Richardson’s revenge on Elaine Thompson-Herah, who beat her by five yards when they competed in the Prefontaine Classic last summer. With the Olympic gold medalist defeated, Richardson can focus on Diamond League Brussels and a showdown with world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. It’s a kind of graduation, from a clash with the third best sprinter in the world to a clash with the current Queenpin.

Fraser-Pryce’s time of 10.62 seconds in Monaco in August is the fastest on the planet this year. Add that to her gold medal in Eugene, and she’s the fastest woman in the world from many angles.

WATCH | Claiming Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce as the 100-meter GOAT:

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the best 100-meter runner of all time

CBC Sports contributor Morgan Campbell explains why Jamaica’s five-time world 100m champion is the undisputed GOAT.

This framing is the two-dimensional way we in sports media view most events. We love stories of guys taking on their old teams or rematches of the previous year’s title match. Revenge and rivalries are reborn. For sportswriters, enough is never enough.

The truth about Friday’s race is a bit more ambiguous.

Fraser-Pryce pulled out of a race last Friday to recover from a minor injury. Richardson had barely raced this summer before winning that race in the rain on Tuesday. World silver medalist Shericka Jackson is listed in Brussels. The same goes for Aleia Hobbs and Marie-Josée Ta Lou, who have each achieved personal bests in recent weeks.

Handicapping this race is a fool’s race, and I’m not a fool.

But I’m still fascinated by the race within a race, between Richardson and Fraser-Pryce, and what their head-to-head says about the gap between potential and production. Promise and performance. Between the person who makes the most of their talent and the one who is still trying to figure out how to exploit it.

Superficially, some similarities between Richardson and Fraser-Pryce are – to paraphrase long-suffering crooner Richie Stephens on his classic track, “try to reach you– as obvious as the color of their hair. Richardson first caught the attention of mainstream sports fans in 2021, sporting a shoulder-length fireball orange mane when she won the US Olympic Trials. Since then, she’s continued to create her signature style, running around in full fishnet in New York and Flo-Jo-style leggings in Switzerland, sporting custom nails and lashes almost every time.

Sha’Carri Richardson burst onto the sprint scene in 2021 after winning the US Olympic Trials. (Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

And Fraser-Pryce, of course, showed off a new hair color each day she competed at the World Championships in July, leaving the uninitiated to wonder how she could go from green and gold to platinum and fuchsia from day to day. the following day.

“Important question,”

, a writer and runner from Oregon. “How can you change your hair color so often? I thought these colors took hours of bleaching and dyeing. Unbelievable. »

Hint: these are wigs.

All of these details tell us that Fraser-Pryce and Richardson both understand presenting and their dual roles as athletes and entertainers. What is the difference between running 10.7 and running 10.7 with flying colors? Endorsement tens of thousands of dollarsmost likely.

On the track, Fraser-Pryce, nicknamed the Pocket Rocket, and Richardson, who is 1.75m tall, each defy the stereotype that little sprinters start fast and fade late. They are both patient accelerators who take control of 100-meter races after the halfway point. When turned on, they both hit their top speed at the right time and sustain through the finish line.

With Richardson, we see flashes. At last year’s Mount SAC relays, she ran 10.74 in the semis and 10.77 in the final, in another stiff headwind. Those runs helped her NFL star DK Metcalf, who lined up in the men’s race, and signaled she could still do more. A 10.7 sprinter with a capacity of 10.6.

But since then, we have only seen these flashes, interspersed with detours.

The positive test for marijuana and the one-month suspension following the US trials in 2021.

Poor performance in the second half of last season.

A solid time of 10.85 seconds in May, followed by an early exit from US Trials in June, followed by another long absence, followed by victory on Tuesday. To watch Richardson is to wonder what she could accomplish if she could complete a season without major interruptions, if she could use the next year to build on the previous one.

It is here, of course, that the two sprinters diverge.

See stats, count medals

Fraser-Pryce does not force us to question ourselves.

She has run under 11 seconds in 13 of the past 14 seasons and has won medals at every Olympics since 2008. This season, at age 35, Fraser-Pryce has recorded the seven fastest times in the women’s 100 meters in the world. With Fraser-Pryce, we don’t need our imagination. We can see the statistics.

And we can count the medals – 13 gold, eight silver and one bronze in the World Finals.

WATCH | Fraser-Pryce clocks the world’s best time of 10.62 at Diamond League Monaco:

Fraser-Pryce leads the world in 10.62 at the Monaco Diamond League

Host Morgan Campbell breaks down Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce’s incredible races since winning gold at the World Championships in Athletics in Eugene.

In short, Fraser-Pryce shows us what Richardson could accomplish if she paired her blistering top speed with consistency from game to game and season to season.

None of these details mean it’s time to discuss Richardson’s past tense potential. A generation ago, we thought a sprinter’s peak was a handful of years in his early to mid-twenties, when he had reached his adult strength but still had youthful reflexes and mileage. relatively weak in the knees, hamstrings and Achilles tendons. .

But Fraser-Pryce’s career progression demonstrates that with the right combination of talent, training, maintenance and good health, a sprinter can stay close to his peak for several Olympic cycles. For her, that means a gold medal and a best time in the world at an age when most professional athletes are retired.

And for Richardson, it could mean a chance to address any off-track issues that have been holding her back and racing the kind of times she’s shown us are possible. Not intermittently. Constantly, during major meetings, over the seasons.

Whether that happens on Friday, against a busy ground in Brussels, will only become clear when the starter gun sounds. But if you’re looking for subplots, Fraser-Pryce and Richardson have them.

Jamaica vs. USA is easy, but the race also pits Richardson’s still-untapped potential against Fraser-Pryce’s proven production.

It’s not just age versus youth.

It’s what Fraser-Pryce is against what Richardson could yet become.

. Diamond League Brussels opposes potential ShaCarri Richardson production ShellyAnn FraserPryce

. Diamond League Brussels pits ShaCarri Richardsons potential ShellyAnn FraserPryces production

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