Sanya Richards-Ross aims for Olympic gold

DALLAS -- Sanya Richards-Ross is over Beijing. She is through injuries and illness. To the London Olympics she goes, where Richards hopes for the first time she can be first.

"I'm very, very excited about the opportunity, and hopefully the chance to go back and hopefully bring home gold this time," Richards-Ross said on the first day of the three-day Team USA Media Summit.

The former University of Texas star measures her words. Her confidence is qualified with "hopefully." If the 2008 Olympics taught Richards-Ross anything, it is that nothing is guaranteed.

Richards-Ross is the American record-holder in the 400 meters (48.70). She has been ranked No. 1 in the world for most of the past seven years. But she has only one world championship and no Olympic gold medals in the individual 400.

Richards-Ross was leading at the 2008 Olympics, coming around the final turn, when her right hamstring tightened. She finished third in 49.93.

"When I won the bronze in Beijing, a week after that, I just couldn't wait for the next Olympics," said Richards-Ross, who is married to Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Aaron Ross. "I struggled with injury there for a while, and I was a bit nervous about if I'd be able to come back. But I feel I'm in the best shape of my life this year, so I'm very excited about having this opportunity."

Five years ago, Richards-Ross was diagnosed with Behcet's syndrome, a chronic condition in which the body's immune system becomes overactive. Six months ago, a new doctor gave her a new diagnosis and a new treatment.

Richards-Ross wouldn't divulge more about her condition. But she said although she still sometimes deals with surface lesions and mouth sores, she has never felt better.

"We're looking forward to really a successful season for her," said Sharon Richards, her mother and agent. "She's worked so hard and unfortunately has been faced with illness and injuries, which of course, is beyond our control. So we're all just very happy for her that she is healthy now. Team Sanya is very happy."

Richards-Ross' past two seasons were slowed by a quadriceps muscle she pulled at the 2010 Penn Relays. She ran under 50 seconds only once the past two seasons and finished seventh at the World Championships in 2011 with a 51.32.

"Even though physically you know you can do it, it's like your mind kind of holds you back for some time," Richards-Ross said. "I think that's really the hardest part of coming back from injury."

She is all the way back now, having run two of the top three times in the world this year. Richards-Ross went 50.18 in Waco in April and 50.11 in Jamaica on May 5. Only Jamaica's Novlene Williams-Mills, who beat Richards-Ross in Jamaica with a 49.99, has run faster.

"What makes me wake up every morning and want to do this is I love what I do," Richards-Ross said. "I feel like I've been blessed to have this gift. I want to see how good I can be. I know if I go out there and execute well based on how I train, I think I can be one of the best ever. That's what really motivates me to go out and keep training.

"I've failed a couple of times, but I think I've been failing forward and getting better every time. And so I'm just very excited for the opportunity every morning. My main motivation this year is to win my gold medal in the 400."

Hopefully, she says cautiously, this year is her year.

Charean Williams


Twitter: @NFLCharean

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