Longhorns Olympic Trials Q&A: Sanya Richards-Ross
June 20, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas -- Sanya Richards-Ross was a five-time NCAA Champion and 11-time All-American during her two seasons in Austin (2003-04) and remains one of the top 400-meter runners in the world.
She claimed individual titles in the 400 meters at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor and 2004 NCAA Indoor Championships and earned crowns in the 4x400 meter relay at the 2003 NCAA Indoor, 2003 NCAA Outdoor and 2004 NCAA Indoor Championships.
She earned Olympic gold medals with Team USA's 4x400 meter relay in both 2004 (Athens) and 2008 (Beijing), won the 400 meters at the 2009 World Outdoor Championships and has earned three additional World Outdoor titles on Team USA's 4x400-meter relay (2003, 2007 and 2009).
Richards-Ross is a two-time recipient of both the IAAF World Athlete of the Year and the Jesse Owens Award (2006, 2009).
At the Olympic Trials, which begin this week in Eugene, Ore., Richards-Ross will attempt to qualify for her third Olympic team in both the 400 meters and 200 meters.
She recently spoke with TexasSports.com about her past successes and future pursuits.
How have you learned to channel nervous energy into successful situations? When I was younger, I would get nervous, but I would want to win more and the nerves were there. Frankly as I've gotten older, I've realized that it's something that I've actually had to work on, and I have learned through life experiences more how to deal with it. I think experience has been my biggest help, and I've been in these situations before and nothing can really surprise me. I've made teams; I haven't made teams. I think knowing and having all those experiences is what's really helped me to channel my nerves and to give my best performance.
Did you have specific negative experiences that forced you to learn and grow? Yeah, I've actually had those experiences a couple of times, and the most recent one was 2008 at the Olympic Games (when taking the bronze medal in the 400). I felt I was just so overwhelmed. I wanted to win for my country, my sponsors, myself -- I got so caught up in everything around the Olympic Games and what it would mean for my career to be an Olympic champion. I've definitely had that experience where I made the emotions and circumstances get the better of me, and I've learned a great deal of that.
How did the 2008 Beijing Games affect your career? There's always a little bit of hurt that's there because for me, I felt like it was a real missed opportunity. I won every single race that season, and won every single race after (the 400). But I didn't win the one I wanted the most. When it originally happened, I was little bitter about it and sour about it, but starting maybe in 2009, when I started competing again, it became pure motivation. I was able to experience something that was going to be helpful to my career, so it took a little time, but I'm actually happy it happened because it definitely helped me.
What allows you peace and the ability to focus? I think for me, there's so much going on that I feel like sometimes my head is spinning. I have a million requests of things to do, and at the end of the day I've worked really hard and I don't want anything to get in the way of my competition. I think the best place where I do find refuge is in my training. I'm lucky because I train in Waco so there's not much to do there but eat, sleep and train. That is a unique, almost opposite parallel. I'm in Paris at this huge race with 70,000 fans, and we go out and people recognize me. And then I have this other side of the spectrum where I'm in Waco, and it's a quiet place, there's nobody there but myself, my coaches. That really does keep me grounded, and I enjoy that part a lot because it reminds me of when I just started and I was truly doing it for fun and just trying to get better every day in practice.
Running the 200 and 400 is pretty remarkable. Has that always been a goal? For me, in 2000 when I made my first World Junior team, I was the only American to make it in the 200 and the 400, so it's always been a dream and a goal of mine. I think I've learned that you have to be patient. You can't make the team before you make the team, and my entire plan the whole season was to get the 400 down first. I wanted to run sub-50 (seconds), I wanted to try to get 49 (seconds) or lower if I could before attempting a 200 because at the end of the day, that's the event I really, really want to win. I've been training really, really hard. I know the speed is there, I know my endurance is there, so it's just putting those two together in the 200. I mean, it's a no-brainer for me, the 400 comes first, three days off, so it's really just icing on the cake for me.