U.S. Olympic Trials: Sha'Carri Richardson falls short of qualifying for Paris in women's 200

EUGENE, Ore. — Sha'Carri Richardson knew she was beaten.

The American sprinting sensation throttled down as she approached the finish line, conceding that she didn’t have enough energy left to chase down any of the three women in front of her.

Gabby Thomas proved the class of the highly anticipated women’s 200-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Trials, comfortably claiming first place in a time of 21.81 seconds. Brittany Brown and McKenzie Long also punched their tickets to Paris on Saturday by finishing second and third, respectively.

Richardson settled for fourth place in 22.16 seconds, dashing her hopes of attempting a sprint double in Paris later this summer. She already established herself as a favorite for Olympic gold in the women’s 100 when she dominated that event during the opening weekend of Trials.

As Thomas, Brown and Long shared a joyous hug after crossing the finish line, Richardson was gracious in defeat. She plastered a smile on her face and clapped for her Paris-bound countrywomen.

How does Richardson feel about focusing only on the 100 in Paris? Did her legs get heavy on Saturday after running three rounds of the 100 and three rounds of the 200 in eight days? Only Richardson knows those answers. She did not talk to reporters on Saturday just like she hasn't throughout Olympic Trials.

It was no surprise to see Thomas claim victory in the women’s 200. That race has long been her specialty. Thomas won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in the 200 and upgraded to silver at last year’s world championships. Then she chose not to run the 400 last weekend at Trials to make sure her legs were fresh for her signature race.

“Sitting out the first part of Trials took a lot of discipline and patience so that I can run a really good 200,” Thomas said. “It was really, really hard for me to watch those 400s. I was here in Eugene, just kind of training through it. But I think ultimately it was the right decision.”

That Richardson was also unable to catch Brown and Long qualifies as a bigger shock. The 100 may be Richardson’s best race, but she won a bronze in the 200 at world championships last summer. Her time in Saturday’s final was slower than the sub-22-second races she produced in the Olympic Trials first round and semifinals.

Brown and Long both ran fast enough that Richardson would have needed to be at her best to overtake either of them. Long said she dug deep over the last 60 meters and kept reminding herself, "Don't break your form no matter what."

When Long crossed the finish line, it was a bittersweet moment for the recent Ole Miss grad. Sweet because it meant she had qualified for Paris. Bitter because her late mom wasn't there to witness it.

Long's mother died unexpectedly of a heart attack at 45 right before the track season started. Long has run in memory of her mother ever since.

"Crossing that line, knowing that I’m an Olympian now, is so surreal," Long said, fighting back tears. "I know my mom is smiling from cheek to cheek, I know she’s proud of me. That’s all I could ever want."

Among those who had an inkling that Long would make the Olympic team was Thomas. She said she had a dream on Friday night that she and Long would finish top three.

Told that Long would have liked to have known ahead of time, Thomas laughed.

Said the 200 meters champion with a smile, "I didn't want to jinx anything."