The heart of champion never surrenders. The heart of a champion never stops beating. And on September 16, 2006, blasting out of the blocks from her lane 6 assignment, Sanya dragged the field and ran for a new women’s 400m American Record with a time of 48.70 in Athens, Greece beating the previous mark of 48.83 set by Olympic gold medalist Valerie Brisco-Hooks on August 6, 1984 in the Los Angeles Summer Games. It had been just two years prior, in the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad on the very same Athens track, where Ms. Richards had experienced the agony of defeat finishing 6th in the 400 meters. But the heart of the champion never surrenders. Sanya subsequently tasted the thrill of victory after running the third leg of 4 x 400 relay to secure the Gold Medal for Team USA with a time of 3:19.01. And the beat goes on. . .
. . . to Osaka, Japan for the 2007 World Championships where illness forced a 5th place 22.70 finish in deuce and a withdrawal from the 400 meters. Once again, the agony of defeat dominated the dreams of the then vibrant 22 year-old Richards. But the heart of champion never surrenders.
Yes, surrender is not in her creed, nor will you find it in the hopes and words of the prolific poet laureate Langston Hughes when he penned his mighty poem “Harlem” (Dream Deferred). The 2008 Beijing Olympic campaign was in full motion as the Swoosh released their introspective, soul examining, momentum building, courageous commercial spot preparing the world for . . . Sanya. The determined but previously deferred Richards had won every other race that season, as well as every other year, except for the majors. Was this her time? Would the dream arrive?
On August 19th of 2008 at 10:17am EDT, the dream sets down in its blocks 400 meters away. The dream takes its mark. The gun sounds! And the dream aggressively “explodes” out of the blocks! 100 meter split. All systems check. 200 meter split. All systems check. 300 meter split . . . the dream’s hamstring cramps . . . suddenly Sanya summons her championship gear less than 100 meters away from defeating what had been so long deferred. But with a final time of 49.93, the golden dream remained deferred as Great Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu finished first breaking the tape with a season’s best 49.62. A devastated dream decorated once again with defeat’s agony secured the bronze medal. But the heart of a champion never surrenders and four days later on August 23 9:44 AM EDT, Sanya anchored Team USA in the 4 x 400 relay to a season’s best 3:18:54 defeating Russia to repeat as the Gold Medal champions. In exhilarating fashion, Richards received the baton from Monique Henderson trailing Anastasia Kapachinskaya in the anchor leg and successfully overtook her at the finish line resuscitating the golden dream!
And 2009 was certainly golden for Ms. Richards as she swept all 6 meets in the Golden League and once again invited the thrill of victory into her life with her first individual World Championship gold medal with a winning time of 49 flat graciously transferring defeat’s dream deferring agony to Shericka Williams, Anastasia Kapachinskaya and Christine Ohuruogu. How ya like me now!
The 2010 season begins with the newly forged Diamond League that prominently features the now Mrs. Sanya Richards-Ross who on February 26th, her birthday as well, married her longtime University of Texas Hook’em Horns college boyfriend and now NY Giants cornerback Aaron Ross. But with the joy comes the pain, like sunshine and rain, as suddenly her Begets became clouded with Behcet’s. Diagnosed in 2007 with the rare and serious disease, the added stress induced greater flare-ups in the lesions and coupled with a quad and ankle injury, Richards-Ross was forced to prematurely end her 2010 season after an injury laden all-out effort in Des Moines, IA at the USA Track and Field Championships. After revealing how much pain and discomfort she had concealed and that her new arm sleeves were not simply a fashion statement, it’s evident the heart of a champion never surrenders.
For now, the dream patiently waits on a track in London 2012, as the dream’s child, the thrill of victory, anxiously awaits to see who will sign its adoption papers in Daegu, Korea to become the owner of a 2011 World Championship.
Tune in on Thursday September 9th at 7pm to hear Sanya Richards-Ross discuss all her thrills of victory and how she has converted those moments of agony into the energy that fuels her competitive drive. Trained by the legendary Clyde Hart, who also coached Michael Johnson to his Olympic gold medals, Sanya discusses her training, pursuit of the world record and clearly why the best is yet to come as the champion is now so much more than a conqueror.
For the first time, the fastest woman in 400 meter American history has rested her legs in this summer’s down year. With the most sub-50 400meter races in history, it would be wise not call the two-time IAAF World Athlete of the Year a “comeback.” As Uncle L said, “she’s been here for years rockin’ her peers” … you should know the rest. And if ya don’t know now ya know, the heart of a champion never surrenders!