Update: On Sunday, Aug. 5, Sanya Richards-Ross, profiled in this article, won the Olympic 400 final, finally winning her first individual gold medal.
Sanya Richards-Ross is not your normal American track star.
She’s an athlete first, yes. She is the odds-on favorite in the 4x100-meter women’s hurdles at the 2012 London Olympics. But there are many sides to this Sanya Richards-Ross away from the rubber asphalt: track champion, fashion trendsetter and serious WAG, to name a few.
Olympic stars are inspiration stories alone, but Richards-Ross has raised the bar to multifaceted American icon. Digging deep into her story, rooting for someone else becomes an impossibility.
Sanya Richards-Ross: Track Star
To understand Richards-Ross the individual, one must first recognize the achievements she’s earned as a runner alone.
Originally from Jamaica, Richards-Ross was granted American citizenship at age 12. Her illustrious track and field career started off with a bang, where she was named National High School Female Athlete of the Year among others at St. Thomas Aquinas (FL). She participated in the 4x400 relay team in the 2004 Olympics, starting a string of six straight gold medals for her in that event, including World Championship medals.
In the 400-meter individual race, though, Richards-Ross has not been as fortunate in Olympic play. Entering the 2008 Games as the favorite, she settled for the bronze medal. She has been on the comeback trail ever since, winning two World Championship golds in 2009 and this year in Istanbul.
Richards-Ross now faces the peak of her comeback trail: the 400-meter dash for all the marbles in London. Her track and field coach, Amy Deem, had this to say about Sanya's health leading up to the the 2012 Games (via the Los Angeles Times):
She's as strong as I've ever seen her. She's strong. She's confident. And a scary, healthy Sanya Richards is not a person you want to mess with on the track. I think she's got it all right now and I think she's going to do really good things.
The individual Olympic gold medal still looms for Richards-Ross; up to this point, however, she has had much more to deal with than her Olympic performance.
Sanya Richards-Ross: Behcet's Disease Victim
In 2007, Richards-Ross was diagnosed with Behcet’s Disease, a rare sickness in which the victim develops an excess amount of cold sores and lesions in both the mouth and body.
It has been an ongoing deterrent for Ross in training for the Olympic Games; the disease may have kept her out of peak shape heading into the 2008 Olympics, where she finished with the bronze medal.
Richards-Ross became a spokeswoman for the fight against the illness through her Olympic platform. She has become one of the most notable figures for Behcet’s Disease and has indicated that she will keep doing so.
Her personal investment, though, changed six months ago when she claimed to be feeling better and visited the doctor for a follow-up diagnosis. The medical council concluded that Richards-Ross had been misdiagnosed all this time.
In a June interview with the Associated Press, Richards-Ross claimed she’s at full strength headed into the London Games: "I do feel better," she said. "I'm not being treated for Behcet's anymore. I'm really excited about that but I still have a little time to go."
Sanya Richards-Ross: WAG of Aaron Ross
Yes, I went there. As Richards-Ross goes for her first individual Olympic gold, this time she has a world champion by her side. New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross met Sanya at the University of Texas, and they were married six years later in 2011.
The wedding between the two world-class athletes was nothing short of spectacular, culminating with a 700-person afterparty at the Four Seasons in Austin, which was also filmed on the TV series Platinum Weddings. The wedding budget was rumored to be $600,000, as reported on the show. Rap artists The Game, Cam’ron and several New York Giants players were in attendance.
Sanya Richard-Ross: Fashionista
Like many of her female counterparts, Richards-Ross has an affinity for fashion, one that hasn’t abandoned her as she has become a worldwide star on the track.
She has appeared in multiple spreads for fashion publications, including Seventeen, Glamour and Vogue. She even graced the cover of XI magazine last year for their June 2011 issue.
In addition, Richards-Ross has a contract with Nike; in 2010, she starred in a Foot Locker Nike commercial alongside Philadelphia Eagles wideout Desean Jackson.
That Aaron Ross is one lucky guy.