Jenna Prandini, Sha'Carri Richardson's replacement, says she doesn't feel pressure

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Jenna Prandini wins a semi-final in the women's 200-meter run.
Jenna Prandini wins a women's 200-meter semifinal during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials on June 25. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

She already was going to have a high profile by qualifying in the 200 meters for her second Olympics.

But last month Jenna Prandini also landed an unexpected role in one of the biggest stories of the Tokyo Games when she was named as the replacement for Sha’Carri Richardson in the women’s 100 meters.

Richardson, who won the 100 at the U.S. Olympic Trials, was suspended on June 30 after testing positive for marijuana. Prandini had finished fourth in the event. She said she was at practice training for the 200 when she got a call from officials asking if she would also run the 100 in Tokyo.

“To be honest, I had no idea who I was replacing,” Prandini said Friday after finishing third in her heat in 11.11 seconds. “I just got a call and they asked me if I’d run the 100, and I said yes and that was it.

“I didn’t know the rest of the story. As soon as [reporters] found out, that’s when I found out as well.”

Prandini, who attended high school in Clovis, Calif., and U.S. teammates Teahna Daniels and Javianne Oliver qualified Friday for Saturday’s semifinals. The women’s final will conclude Saturday night’s program.

Daniels won her heat in 11.04 seconds.

“There’s no pressure because I don’t put pressure on myself or other people’s expectations for me,” she said. “I just know what I can do.”

Oliver finished second in her heat in 11.15.

The women’s 100 features a deep and talented field that could make for the one of the most competitive races of these Games.

Richardson would have been among the favorites.

Sha'Carri Richardson looks on during a race.
Sha'Carri Richardson was suspended and barred from competing in the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for marijuana. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

“I would have loved for her to be here, she’s such a great talent,” Daniels said. “Of course, we would love to have her, but, you know, things happen.”

Asked if it was the right decision to not allow Richardson to compete, Daniels said “I can’t have an opinion on that one.”

Several competitors also declined to comment about Richardson.

But Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast, who posted the fastest time at 10.78 seconds, was not among them.

“I was really sad for her, but God knows what he’s doing, so I will see her,” she said. “Maybe not in the Olympics but there’s another race soon.”

Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria initially said she would not talk about Richardson.

“I don’t know how that’s going to help us right now,” she said, “so regardless of who’s here and who’s not here, we’re going to compete, and everybody here is great as well.”

Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce began a quest for a third gold medal by finishing in 10.84 seconds; and fellow Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah, gold medalist at the 2016 Rio Games, finished in 10.82 seconds.

“If somebody’s running fast, everyone else wants to be competitive and get to that level too,” Prandini said, when asked about the fast times in the heats. “It’s just a joint effort of all of us being competitive with each other.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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