Born Sanya Richards - now known as Richards-Ross after marrying football player Aaron Ross - the American sprinter became one of the dominant 400-meter runners of the early 21st century, earning Olympic and World Championship gold medals in the straight 400 and the 4 x 400-meter relay.
Her Favorite Year:
Richards-Ross enjoyed a brilliant 2006 season, highlighted by her U.S. 400-meter record-setting performance of 48.70 seconds at the IAAF World Cup in Athens. Richards won 15 consecutive 400-meter races that year, posted the world’s five best times and earned the 2006 Jesse Owens Award and the IAAF World Athlete of the Year honor.
Born in Jamaica, Richards’ family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida when she was 12. At the time of the 2008 Olympics Sanya was engaged to Ross, whom she met when both attended the University of Texas. A participant in USA Track & Field’s “Be a Champion” program, Richards has worked with young people in several communities and won the Visa Humanitarian Athlete of the Year award in 2005.
Olympic Ups and Downs (Mostly Ups):
Richards-Ross earned her first Olympic gold medal while running the third leg on the victorious U.S. 4 x 400-meter relay team at the 2004 Athens Games. She won the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials and led the 400-meter final in Beijing before fading to a third-place finish. She then had to come from behind as the anchor runner in the. 4 x 400-meter relay, catching Russia's Anastasiya Kapachinskaya in the final 100 meters to lead the U.S. to the gold medal.
Unlike Beijing, Richards-Ross was third at the final turn of the 400-meter final in the 2012 Olympics. but this time she powered past the leaders to earn the gold medal in 49.55 seconds. She again anchored the U.S. 4 x 400 relay team and took her third consecutive gold medal in the event as the Americans won by more than three seconds.
Other Career Highlights:
Prior to 2009, Richards-Ross’s World Championship victories had all come via the 4 x 400 relay. She placed second in the 2005 World Championships in the 400, then broke through with individual victories in the 400 at the 2009 World Championships and the 2012 World Indoor Championships. She won outdoor World Championship 4 x 400-meter relay gold medals in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2013. Additionally, she won four NCAA championships at Texas, winning the indoor 400 in an NCAA-record 50.82 seconds in 2004 and the outdoor 400 in 2003, and running on Texas’ victorious 4 x 400-meter relay teams in 2003 and 2004. When healthy, Richards-Ross was consistently ranked first or second in the world in the 400 from 2005-12.
- Height: 5-8
- Weight: 136
- Birth date: February 26, 1985
- Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
- Personal Best: 22.09 seconds (200 meters); 48.70 (400 meters)
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