- Sanya Richards-Ross, Contributor, espnW.com
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Sanya Richards-Ross is blogging about her journey to the London Olympics for espnW. Her latest installment comes on the heels of her victory at the world indoor track and field championships in Istanbul, where she ran 50.79 seconds to win the 400 meters by almost a full second.
It's hard to top the euphoria of winning a world title, but the feeling you get when the love of your life solidifies his future doing what he loves comes pretty close.
On Monday night, I was in Waco, Texas -- where I train Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays -- when I got a call from my husband, Aaron Ross, who was in Austin. A free agent since the end of the New York Giants' Super Bowl season, "Ross" had been offered a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Several teams had gone back and forth showing interest in him, but this deal happened so quickly, literally overnight. Free agency is really crazy like that.
Ross and I talked it through; I gave him my opinion, and he told me what he was thinking. One of the things we had to come to grips with was moving from a Super Bowl championship team, and knowing no matter where we ended up, it was going to be hard to compare to the experiences he had winning two rings with the New York Giants.
At this point in his career, Ross was looking forward to a new challenge, and an opportunity to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars presented just that. And he does appreciate that the move is going to affect both of us. I'm from Florida -- I went to high school in Fort Lauderdale -- so I knew Florida would be a great place for us to be. Considering those factors, we wanted to come together to make this decision, and we both felt Jacksonville was a good fit.
So Ross called his agent back, and they conferenced me in on a three-way call so that the agent could break down the details of the deal for us. We made our final decision, and by the time I went to bed, my husband was a Jacksonville Jaguar. It happened really, really quickly. I'm just thrilled for, and proud of, Ross. We've had an exceptional month.
Going round and round in Istanbul
A big part of this incredible month was my success at the indoor world championships. Even though Ross' free agency excitement makes this feel like a million years ago, it was only a little over a week ago that I was in Istanbul, winning my first world indoor title in the 400 meters.
The meet started Friday, March 9, and I had to run both the prelims and the semifinals of the 400 that day. The prelims were in the morning, and though I typically feel better physically at night, I never really adjusted to the time change in Turkey, so I actually felt pretty good racing that morning. I ran the first 300 meters all out, just like I would if it were a final, and then really shut it down in the last 50 or 60 meters to conserve some energy.
I came back Friday night for the semifinals. In that round, you have to run almost the entire race hard to make sure that you qualify for the final and get a good lane. In indoor track, the turns are so tight that it's best to compete from the outside -- Lanes 4, 5 and 6. And they do lane assignments for the final based on your time in the semis, so I just kind of went for it, ran my race well and finished strong to the line. I didn't set out to run as fast as I did, 50.99 seconds, but I was happy with the time, and it earned me the outside lane (Lane 6) for the final.
It was my first time having the experience of running two rounds on the same day, and it was pretty tough, especially considering I don't do two-a-days when I'm training. I've never had to work out, go home and rest and then work out again in the same day, much less compete twice in the same day, so that was a true test of my fitness. But everybody is competing under the same circumstances, and in a year like this, with the Olympics around the corner, it's exciting to be successful at a new challenge. It gave me a lot of confidence to be able to do it so well.
What a difference six months make
When I warmed up for the 400-meter final Saturday night, I was definitely in a much different place, in my mind and in my body, than I'd been in last August at the outdoor world championships in South Korea. Last year, I knew going into the final that I was a long shot to win the race. I wasn't consistent in 2011 -- I couldn't ever quite get my rhythm -- and I hadn't been able to regularly run in less than 50 seconds. I knew it was going to take a time in the mid-49-second range to win the outdoor world title, and I was also in Lane 1, the toughest lane on the track. So though I tried not to let myself get mentally beat down before the race and give my best effort, it was definitely challenging.
For this race in Turkey, I felt the total opposite. I came into the final having run the three fastest times in the world this season, and I was still feeling pretty strong even after two rounds. I was really confident that if I executed my race well, I could be successful. Of course, I still had a bit of nerves. Whenever you put that USA uniform on and you're competing against other countries, the stakes just automatically intensify. But the nerves kind of went away when I got in the blocks, and I just stuck to my race plan.
Being in Lane 6, the outermost lane, I wanted to take it out really hard and really make the rest of the field have to work to try and catch me, and then be able to hold the pace and be the strongest coming home. At about the 200-meter mark, the Russian sprinter, Aleksandra Fedoriva, came up on me and kind of went on the outside of me, but I didn't feel her at all. I was in my zone, and I made my move at that point instinctively. I was just running my own race, and focusing on bringing home a gold medal for Team USA.
I was very excited and grateful to win, and it felt particularly good because my husband was there to share it with me. Ross had surprised me by showing up in Turkey for the meet, so that was also really special, because a lot of times he doesn't get to see me in major championships. His being there was great, and of course we stayed up pretty late enjoying the moment, although I tried to get some sleep before the relay the next day.
I think when you've gone through rough seasons and you're not winning races like you used to, you especially enjoy the moments when you do win again. Of course, the Olympics is my main goal, and I didn't even have a world indoor title on my mind when I started my training this year. But I just took it week by week and kept going, and now I'm just thoroughly enjoying being a world champion again.
Sanya Richards-Ross is blogging about her journey to the London Olympics for espnW. Her latest installment comes on the heels of her victory at the world indoor track and field championships in Istanbul, where she ran 50.