This is Justin Lagat’s column on his meeting with American sprint sensation Sha’Carri Richardson. As with most human beings, perception and reality can be different. 

It is hard not to turn into a die-hard fan of Sha’Carri Richardson after meeting her in person.

Humble, cheerful, down to earth, kind, understanding, easygoing… the list can go on as I reflect on her personality from the few encounters I had with her while she was in Nairobi this past weekend for the Kip Keino Classic Continental Tour Gold meet.

From the stories I had read and heard about her, I was utterly taken aback when I found myself standing next to Richardson. Our eyes met, and I saw a young and cheerful lady. I immediately felt at home with her. I greeted her, and she replied to my greetings with a smile and even asked more about how I was doing and if I was a runner. I told her I was a writer.

“You mean you write articles?” She appeared surprised, said that was great, and quickly wished me a good night. That was on Thursday evening at the Safari Park Hotel, which was hosting guests and elite athletes for the World Athletics Continental Tour event.

The following day, in the afternoon, as I walked back from the restaurant to my hotel room, I met her along the path, walking alone. I requested a selfie.

A happy Sha’Carri Richardson after her relaxed 22.07 win at the Kip Keino Classic.

“Hey! Good afternoon. How are you doing?” She took her time to cheerfully greet me as though to let me know there was no hurry in Africa and that we could have a little conversation to get to know each other before the selfie.

“Well, we can have the selfies now,” she said after a brief chat. I took many selfies, and she remained patient until I told her I had taken enough and thanked her. Finally, she wished me a good day.

Since I stayed in the same hotel, I saw her several times on Friday. I even rode in the same mini-bus to the stadium for her training and saw how she interacted well with other athletes. She struck me as one who makes friendships easily but is careful and economical with her words before she gets to know you more.

Genuine and honest people are often hurt when the people they trust disappoint them, which appears to be the case for Sha’Carri. She is just being careful.

“I found my peace back on the track, and I’m not letting anything, or anybody takes that anymore,” Sha’Carri has been quoted saying this year.

Sha’Carri connects well and knows exactly what her fans require of her. She delivered a fantastic performance to them at the Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani, a performance that is perhaps the most talked about across the world right now. She ran a meeting record of 22.07 for the women’s 200m race despite slowing down to celebrate with about 40m to go.

If there were any more doubts about her great personality, anyone who was at the evening party after the Kip Keino event and saw her allowing so many fans to take selfies with her almost into the middle of the night must have left star-struck as I was.

She is not who I thought she was on the internet. She is an amazing person!