Q&A with Sanya Richards
With the Relays a little different because it's an Olympic year, is everything more heightened? Absolutely, everything is heightened this season, and I'm really anxious to get on the track this year. The Texas Relays is already special because it's in Austin and it's an amazing meet that is well supported, but just to get out there and run my first 400 of the season, even though it is on a relay, I'm just so excited. My training has been going really well, and I'm hoping to do something special this weekend.
Is it nice to be back in Austin? Well I train half the week in Waco and half the week in Austin. I usually do the Mondays through Wednesdays in Waco with my coach and then I always come back to Austin and train with my strength coach, Bruce Johnson in Austin, and do my Pilates and lighter training in Austin. I'm here half of the week, so this is kind of the norm for me to be back on a Thursday and get to compete in Austin.
How different is this year for you compared to the last three? I think I've grown so much over the past three years. My first Olympic experience was overwhelming to say the least. Being 18, 19 years old and still being a sophomore in college and making it to Athens was just an amazing accomplishment. I think over the past three years I've grown so much as an athlete and as a person and I really know myself and know what it takes to compete well. I'm really looking forward to going to Beijing and being a lot more focused and really accomplishing my goals.
Do you put extra pressure on yourself this year compared to the last three? Absolutely, this is what I've been training for all my life. To go to Beijing as the favorite, to go and have an opportunity and the possibility to win a gold medal, so I'm kind of putting all my eggs in one basket. I really want this gold medal and I don't know what I'm going to do if I don't get it.
What has this year been like for you? This has just been a phenomenal year, if we even started off with the end of `07 going into this season with [Aaron] Ross proposing and then winning the Super Bowl, I mean that was just phenomenal. I couldn't have scripted it better to see Ross start with the giants and then win the Super Bowl. It was amazing, and then to get engaged the same year has just been phenomenal. We're actually going to put off the wedding until 2010 because I really want to focus on the Olympics this season and then we're going to plan in 2009, and in our off-season around February or March 2010 is when we're going to have our wedding. I don't want to do too much in one year. I really want to focus on the Olympics this year.
Are you going to all out this weekend? I'm letting it all hang out every track meet. I really want to see where I am. I train hard and everything I do is always at a high level, so I'm not going to do anything different this weekend. I'm going to go out there and give my best effort. Hopefully the weather will be great. I'm not sure exactly about the three ladies who I'll be running with this weekend, so I think that makes it interesting to find out my team kind of late and go out there and give a great effort.
You had a spurt there where you got sick and had some disappointments. Does it feel good to be healthy and you're at the point where you feel like all that hard work is going to pay off? Last season was extremely challenging. I found out I had Behcet's Disease around in June and it was really challenging to be missing a lot of training. I missed six competitions at the beginning, which I've never missed any track meets before, so it was really hard, not just with physical ailments, but also mentally to go out there and know that you're not 100 percent. I've been healthy now for four months. I haven't had any flare ups with my disease, so I've just been able to train consistently and I feel great. I definitely think my hard work is going to pay off this year.
What are the symptoms of Behcet's Disease? What was happening to me all of last season is that I would have really bad mouth ulcers, sometimes to the point where I couldn't talk or couldn't eat. I had really bad skin lesions and they would be painful. Then I had really bad fatigue and as a quarter-miler, that is your worst nightmare to not be able to recover well. That is why I didn't do well at the meets where I had multiple races. Every time I'd go home after giving a hard effort, it would take so much longer to feel a 100 percent again. Those were some of things I was dealing with last season, and as soon as the season was over, I went to a doctor and we started on the medication. I went to him every single week and we started to see what would work for me, and it has been working really well and I feel a lot better now.
Is there the possibility of the disease coming back? It can always come back. They say it can go into remission and never come back, or it can come back. It's something that you're genetically predisposed to having, so I could have gotten it any point in my life. The best thing is that the longer you go without having it, the more likely it won't come back. I used to go 10 days and then have a flare up, like clockwork, but now it has been four months, so the doctors are very optimistic that I won't have anymore flare ups. I am on a pill, a very benign pill, that's very easy and I've also altered my diet a bit. Fish oil pills and a lot of juice. They've really helped.
Do you remember the first time you ran at the Texas Relays? I actually do remember. I have a bad memory, and I think that's actually a good thing because a lot of the time I don't remember all my success so that's what keeps me humble and keeps me grounded and always wanting to work hard. But I really do remember my first Texas Relays when I put on that all white for the first time and I ran with Raasin McIntosh, Keasher Downer and Moushaumi Robinson. We ran an awesome 4x400. LSU was here, South Carolina was here and there was a lot of hype around the race. We ran phenomenally well. My first year we ran well, the second year we broke the collegiate record. So I've had really great experiences on this track especially at relay meets, so hopefully it'll be another great experience this week.
Do you treat track meets differently gearing up for the Olympics or do you treat them all the same? I do treat track meets differently. There are certain meets this year that I'm really pinpointing to run really well at. The Prefontaine Meet is one of those meets, and then I'm going to Jamaica early this season. That's usually my first international meet, and I always try to run pretty fast there. The Prefontaine Meet is my last meet before the U.S. trials, so I really want to run fast there also. The other meets Coach and I try to work on different kinds of things. I might work on the first on the half of my race, I might work on the latter part of my race. There are certain things that we will work on. I might run a 100 or 200 at a couple track meets to work on my speed. We do treat track meets differently, but they're definitely points that I want to be at certain times in the season and I think that the Prefontaine Meet and the meet in Jamaica are the two meets that I'll measure myself and see where I am.
At meets like that are you more critical of yourself at the end when you look at your time? What we're doing is that I'm really comparing this year to 2006. I'm trying to be better than I was in 2006 because that was my best year. In Jamaica, my first meet last year, I ran 49.9 [seconds] and so I'm going to see if I can run hopefully 49.5 or better and that will really indicate where I am in my training. I do think I am about half a second better now than I was last season, so I'm hoping that all my times will reflect that. I'm definitely going to be really critical of myself and keep going back to the drawing board and work harder and harder to get better.
Describe your competition. There are four or five ladies that have been running phenomenally well. Two of them are British athletes, then the American athletes, and one Jamaican athlete, Noveline Williams, that have been running really well. That just means that I am going to have to do my best at the competition and that is what I'm ready to do. I feel that as long as I can run 48 seconds, no one else in the world has been able to do that, and so I feel that is the only way I can be 100 percent sure I can win it. If not, people can run 49 seconds, so I'll definitely have competition.