Demus, Richards-Ross follow moms' lead

May, 13, 2012
5/13/12
5:32
PM ET

DALLAS -- Mother's Day carried added meaning on the first morning of the U.S. Olympic Media Summit, thanks to U.S. track stars Lashinda Demus and Sanya Richards-Ross. Demus just missed qualifying for Beijing in 2008 in her specialty, the 400-meter hurdles, a year after giving birth to twin boys, Dontay and Duaine, after what she described as "a horrible pregnancy." Now, she's in top form and on top of the world, having won the world title last year in Daegu, South Korea.

"It's a big difference from 2008," Demus said. "My whole body is different. Now, this is my normal body. I'm in better shape than I was then; I'm running faster; my [sons] are bigger."

Another major difference? In 2009, Demus hired a new coach -- her mother, Yolanda Demus -- who first put Lashinda on the track when she was 2 years old.

[+] EnlargeSanya Richards-Ross
Zuma Press/Icon SMISanya Richards-Ross' mother, Sharon, manages her career.

"Everything has changed," Demus said. "My training has changed, especially with my mom as my coach. Everything is looking pretty good and on schedule as far as the Olympic Games."

Demus also changed agents, hiring her husband, Jamel Mayrant, but said it took some effort to persuade her mother to take over the stopwatch.

"My mom didn't come that easily," Demus said, "but I knew that she was a very hard coach, and I knew that if I wanted to get where I wanted to be, which I'm on my way to now, she was the best person for it. I wanted to keep everything in the family."

Richards-Ross knows what that's like. She lets her mother, Sharon, manage her career. They work well together now, but when Sanya was learning to run, they were competitors. Sharon Richards, on hand here Sunday, recalled family track meets at the beach, where her husband, a former Jamaican national soccer player, she and her daughters would race. Pops would win, and "I would be second," Sharon said.

"And then, as time progressed, it was Daddy, then Sanya." She paused for a beat. "Then Mommy retired, because I was having no part of that. I'm OK with my husband running first, me second and the girls after, but when she took over, that was it. She retired me."

Now, Sharon's in management, but she has a hard time keeping distance from her main client.

"I'm much more nervous than Sanya is," she said. Before races, "I'm teary-eyed, I get weak in the knees, I get weak in the stomach, I don't want anybody to talk to me, I need to go drink some water; it's a total emotional roller coaster for me. And one would think that since she's been doing it since she was 7 that it would get better, but it totally gets worse."

Yet she's also a cagey enough observer of the sport, having grown up in Jamaica, to know which meets to worry about and which not to. Richards-Ross was run down in the home stretch and finished second to Novlene Williams-Mills in a meet eight days ago in Kingston, Jamaica, but Sharon thinks everything is copacetic.

"Immediately after the race, [Richards-Ross] knew what happened," Sharon said. "She's been doing a little bit of speed work and she got out like a bat out of hell and wasn't able to hold on all the way to the finish line. But after having assessed the race with Coach [Clyde] Hart, he was pretty impressed that, having gotten out a second and a half faster than she should have, she was able to hold on as long as she did. So it was a learning curve for her. I think she's good from here on [out]."

Mom knows best.

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

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