Sanya Richards-Ross had hoped her farewell tour would take her to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and an unprecedented fourth gold medal in the 4x400-meter. That possibility has ended, as has her career, as the reigning Olympic 400-meter champion was unable to finish her heat Friday as the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials for Track and Field got underway at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
Richards-Ross, 31, came up short in her bid for a fourth Olympic team, closing out a career that saw her win gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games and bronze in Beijing in 2008. The former American-record holder (48.70 seconds, set at the Athens 2004 Games) also has three Olympic gold medals in the 4x400-meter, won in Athens, Beijing and London.
Richards-Ross had announced her pending retirement via Instagram in April. A third surgery on her right big toe in November was a harbinger that the end was near. That end came Friday evening, and it sadly will be punctuated with a “DNF” next to her name on the results sheet.
Known for the trademark long sleeves she wore on both arms while competing, Richards-Ross became a fixture among the world’s elite women at 400 meters. In addition to her Olympic medals, she won the 2009 world championship in the 400-meter after taking silver in 2005 and was part of four world champion 4x400 teams. In 2006 and again in 2009, she was named the IAAF World Athlete of the Year, awards that came during a four-year run (2005-09) as the world’s No. 1 women’s 400-meter runner, a pinnacle she reached again in 2012.
Richards-Ross ran collegiately at the University of Texas. In 2003, she won the indoor 200-meter title and was runner-up in the 400-meter, an event she then won outdoors that same year.
Richards-Ross now will turn her attention starting a family with her husband, NFL cornerback Aaron Ross, something she considered at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
“Being an athlete really is about being selfish at many times,” she said earlier this year to TeamUSA.org. “Of course, I think being a mother is the most unselfish job you can have. I’m excited to start a family once I retire, because I think I can give 100 percent to that part of my life, which will be very important to me as well.”
Although her running career has come to an end, Richards-Ross would like to find other ways to contribute to the sport.
“I would love to help effect change in a positive way for athletes,” she said, “and consult with USA Track & Field, Nike or the IOC to help athlete that come after me.”