This week, Sanya Richards-Ross, the reigning 400m Olympic Gold medalist, made it known that this season will be her final lap around the world. Her retirement announcement was heard all around the world, and her fans and fellow US teammates were devastated by the news. Ever since I was 9 years old, I wanted to be like Sanya. Growing up running the 400m, and eventually surrounding myself with everything track and field, she is my ultimate role model. Running in South Florida, a place once known for once being her sole dominated territory; her records were held at the highest peak, which many hope to reach in their lifetime, let alone in high school.
The way she commands the track with her shining presence, shows no fear while standing behind her blocks inspires me or even how she started a movement, with only a braid inspires me. To know that after this summer, I won't see her on the track at another Texas Relays or US Outdoor Nationals, will be such an adjustment that I really don't want to make. Sanya has been impacting and changing lives going on 12 seasons, in this life we call track and field. There are so many things Sanya has taught me in these past years that everyone should get the pleasure of learning as well. When the reigning Olympic Gold medalist steps on the track, you can learn from not only how she performs in the spotlight, but how she performs when no one's watching.
1. All things come in due time
Heading into the 2008 Olympic Games, Sanya was the most dominant 400m runner in the world. She made it known going into Beijing that she was going for the Gold. In the 400m final, she didn't accomplish her goal, but was still happy and proud of herself that she was able to receive the Bronze and represent her country. After that race, she didn't blame anything or anyone, she just went back to the drawing board, and went back to training hard. In 2009 she became World Champion, and everyone in the world knew, she'd be a forced to be reckoned with in London. In 2012, Sanya was 1 of 2 Americans in the 400m final, and with 100m left to go the race could have went to anyone. But, when you watch the race, it was like a switch went off in her head, and you could tell she wanted it so bad. She pumped her arms, and pulled away from the pack and became an Olympic Champion.
When things didn't go her way in 2008, she didn't quit, she didn't blame herself or her training. Sanya accepted that it wasn't her time, and went back to working even harder than before. So, when the next opportunity came, there would be no other outcome, other than her being an individual Olympic Champion.
2. How you lose, will define you as a winner
Every athlete has their fair share of losses, and Sanya knows she's no exception. All races can't be perfect, so when she crossed the line, not on top there was a certain grace about it. She didn't pout, she didn't look super disappointed even though, she might have felt it. She went up to other athletes, and congratulated them on their win with a smile that defines true sportsmanship. She went into interviews after races, and she could have felt totally defeated, but she didn't let it show. Sanya held her head high, and knew what adjustments to make going into the next race. Sportsmanship like this, is one of the reasons she's respected and liked by her not only her teammates, but athletes across the world.
3. Injuries can't stop you
So many athletes end their careers after their first major injury; and even more become discouraged and lose their momentum afterwards. Sanya has been battling problems with her foot, since before the London Olympics. She's had three foot surgeries, and from at least one of those surgeries, she could have called it quits. The road not only to full recovery, but to race shape was tough, and she wasn't shy about it. But, she worked through it, and she worked 10 times harder, so she can be in the perfect position going into her final lap. This really resonates with me, because I've had my fair share on injuries. Even though my injuries were never severe enough for surgery, 2 broken ankles is still pretty discouraging. But, knowing that Sanya had a similar problem and didn't quit, but pushed through it and won a gold medal, just gave me motivation. It also showed me that you can come back from any injury. If you work hard enough, you'll get back to normal form and be able to run like you were never hurt in the first place.
4. Surround yourself with people who share your passions and believe in you
No one has time for negative energy. The people Sanya surrounds herself with, proves exactly that. Everyone in her corner, believes in what she's doing and what she stands for. They push her to be better and want her to accomplish her goals, just as bad as she does. From her coach, to her husband and friends and family, Sanya keeps a tight knit squad that helps achieve her goals. Sanya takes part in several major projects off the track with people who have a serious passion for what they're working on. That alone shows you can't truly be successful without the partnership who want to succeed and are passionate about what they're doing. A group of people who will support you, no matter what, is what you need on your bad days. The days where you can't get off the track because your legs hurt so bad, or when the race went really bad and you question every move you make. It's the people who pick you up off the floor, and tell you to believe in yourself; those are the people that help you keep going when you don't know if you can push any further.
5. Leave a legacy
Over the past 12 seasons, Sanya has made herself one of the most recognizable track and field athletes in the world. From her commanding presence on the track, to her philanthropic heart off the track. Everyone knows that their time will soon be up, and Sanya took advantage of every season. The track and field clinic she started last year was one of the most talked about things in youth track and field. Her passion for fashion was able to come to life with Angela Simmons in their fur coat line. Sponsoring young boys and girls for prom every year, her hair clinic, and so many other things she has in motion. Sanya has left an everlasting imprint on the sport we call track and field, but she's made a name for herself outside that life as well. Which alone shows, you can be super passionate about more than one thing and still give each thing the attention it needs to succeed. And now that Sanya is sadly about to end her time on the track with us, there's no way we can forget her. The S.R.R. legacy is too strong, and was well put together, by a women who loved to run.
Sanya has taught me plenty of other things too, and even though this is her final season I'm pretty sure I'll be learning a lot more from her in the future. In sporting my S.R.R. braid proud right now, as I watch my favorite athlete of all time begin to say her goodbyes.