All eyes will be on Sha'Carri Richardson when she returns to the track on Saturday for her first race since missing out on the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for THC, a chemical found in marijuana.
The electrifying 21-year-old sprinter will compete in the 100- and 200-meter races at the Prefontaine Classic at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field, weeks after having to watch the Olympics from home.
"It was a moment of bitterness, but at the same time it was sweet because it just gives me more time, it gives me more to show the world that I'm here to stay," Richardson told Tom Llamas on TODAY Friday. "And it just guarantees that I'm going to be here just a little bit longer in the game, but definitely watching it made me want to push forward and just grow from that."
In partnership with NBC Sports Philadelphia
Richardson is returning to the track at Oregon where she won the 100-meter race in 10.86 seconds at the U.S. Olympic trials in June, looking like a potential star in Tokyo with her bright orange hair, nose rings, colorful nails and tattoos.
That dream evaporated for the former LSU star from Dallas when she failed a drug test, resulting in a one-month suspension. She told Savannah Guthrie in an exclusive interview on TODAY last month that she used marijuana after the sudden death of her biological mother days before the U.S. Olympic trials.
"I know what I did," she told Llamas. "I know I'm responsible, and I'm here to take what it is that I have to take from the choices that I decided to make. You can't run from reality, it's still going to be there no matter how long you choose to ignore it, no matter how long you choose to think it's going to go away."
Richardson's suspension from Tokyo triggered a discussion about the World Anti-Doping Agency's rules banning marijuana, which is legal in many U.S. states and is not considered a performance-enhancing drug. Marijuana is legal under state law in Oregon, where she tested positive before the Olympics.
"If those rules do change, I'm just blessed and proud of the fact I could do that for other athletes," Richardson said.
Richardson's honesty about her marijuana use in the midst of anguish over her mother's death also put a spotlight on mental health, which became a highlighted issue in Tokyo after superstar gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from all but one event, citing her own mental health struggles.
"I'm doing a whole lot better, and I'm actually proud to just continue on his journey getting better," Richardson said. "We want to perform for you guys and we want to put on the best performance for you guys, but at the same time, we're here, just like you are.
"When we step off the track, when we step off the football field, when we step off the court, we go live life just like you do. It's just for a certain amount of time we just look like superheroes."
Richardson is now "overjoyed" to be getting back on the track, where she will face off with the trio of Jamaican women who swept all three medals in the 100-meter race in Tokyo - Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price and Shericka Jackson.
This will be Richardson's first head-to-head match-up with Thompson-Herah, who became the first woman in history to win both the 100- and 200-meter races in consecutive Olympics when she won gold in Tokyo. Thompson-Herah also eclipsed a 33-year-old Olympic record set by U.S. superstar Florence Griffith-Joyner when she ran 10.61 seconds to win the 100.
Richardson had a message for the Jamaican trio on Thursday when she shared a TikTok video on Instagram of her debuting a new blonde hairstyle and lip-syncing to Nicki Minaj to let her competition know that she "took some time off to rest and now it's game time."
"August 21 and I’m not playing nice," she wrote.
"With this first race coming back, it's a thank you, because at the end of the day I did make a mistake but that doesn't take away from my talent, that doesn't take away from who I am," Richardson said.
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: