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Olympic track star Sha'Carri Richardson: Hug with grandmother was 'unforgettable'

Sharing a hug with grandmother Betty Harp after the race was "almost better than getting that medal" for Tokyo-bound sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson.
/ Source: TODAY

Reaching the pinnacle of her track career wouldn't have been complete without sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson being able to share a joyous hug in the stands with the woman who has meant so much in her life.

Richardson, 21, blazed to her first Olympic berth when she won the 100-meter race at the U.S. Olympic trials on June 19 with a time of 10.86 seconds. The 5-foot-1 dynamo with the bright orange hair and long, colorful nails then made one more sprint, racing into the stands to wrap grandmother Betty Harp in a tight embrace.

"Running up in the stands to see my grandmother, in that moment I was just so grateful and blessed, the fact that she could be there," Richardson said on TODAY Friday. "From her catching her first flight, probably ever, two weeks before that — and then again on a flight to come and support me in one of the biggest moments of my life.

"If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't even have made it to that moment, so to be able to share that moment with her was just literally unbelievable, unforgettable."

Harp has been a steady, loving presence in Richardson's life, from her childhood in Dallas to winning a national title in 2019 in her freshman year at Louisiana State University.

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"It definitely feels almost better than getting that medal," she said. "It made it feel so much sweeter though, the fact that she was there."

Richardson shared an emotional moment with her grandmother, Betty Harp, after qualifying for her first Olympics by winning the 100-meter final at last week's U.S. Olympic trials in Oregon. Steph Chambers / Getty Images

Richardson had waited a year to compete on the big stage and earn her spot in Tokyo. She also endured the death of her mother just a week before the trials.

"And just going back to losing my mother recently, that was something I wasn't expecting, but I feel like from the pandemic itself, we wasn't expecting the pandemic, so if anything I've taken from the pandemic and I've been able to use in my life, it's just stay ready for the unexpected," she said.

Richardson's eye-catching style and blazing speed had all eyes on her at the track in Oregon. She even pointed at the clock in the last 20 meters of her semifinal heat while well ahead of the competition.

"I just want the world to know that I’m that girl," she told NBC Sports after her race. "That every time I step on the track, I’m going to try to do what it is that me, my coach, my support team, believe I can do."

Like most Olympians, Richardson had been waiting a year to achieve her dream of qualifying for Tokyo, saying the pandemic had been "mentally, physically, emotionally" draining.

"Honestly not knowing if my career was going to even be what we had worked for it to be, what we had predicted it to be, so definitely that was a challenge in itself," she said.

As for the next step in Richardson's journey, she was asked what bright hairstyle she might have in store for Tokyo as she goes for the gold.

"Stay tuned!" she said.