“I understand the influence that I have, I understand the responsibility that I have to [USA Track and Field] and as a top female USA athlete, and to my country, and to my black family, to my beautiful women, to everybody that has been misunderstood for trying to be their best selves and not be put into a category because they do track and field and have been put in a bubble.”
With those words, Sha’Carri Richardson received the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Athlete of the Year for Women Award from USA Track and Field after a year of accomplishments that saw her wining the gold in the 100 meters, the bronze in the 200 meters and anchoring the gold-medal winning 4x100 meter relay team at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest.
It’s telling that Richardson, who came out as bi in 2015, mentioned people “misunderstood for trying to be their best selves,” because it shows she knows of what she speaks.
The outspoken sprinter, who missed the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics after failing a test for marijuana, is determined to put her mark on the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, and it would be dumb to bet against her.
Richardson’s accomplishments in becoming the world’s fastest woman, and doing it as an out athlete, are the reasons she is Outsports’ 2023 Female Athlete of the Year.
We love watching Richardson on the track and seeing a proud out athlete not afraid to be herself. For example, after a win in 2022, Richardson thanked her girlfriend for persuading her to adopt bright orange hair for the race.
“My girlfriend actually picked my color,” Richardson said. “She said it spoke to her, the fact that it was just so loud and vibrant, and that’s who I am.”
With track and field one of the signature events at the Summer Olympics, and Richardson one of the sport’s expected stars, let’s hope we hear a lot more about her hair color in 2024, preferably something that matches gold.
Richardson was far from the only LGBTQ female athlete standout. Others we considered were Alba Redondo (Spanish soccer), Lauren Rowles (Paralympics rowing), Perris Benegas (BMX, women’s rider of the year) and Yulimar Rojas (world champion triple jumper).
Previous Outsports Female Athlete of the Year winners:
2022: Ireen Wüst
2021: Jonquel Jones
2020: Yulimar Rojas
2019: CeCé Telfer
2018: Sue Bird
2017: Seimone Augustus
2016: Nicola Adams
2014: Brittney Griner