LONDON – Sanya Richards-Ross can stop waiting for her grand Olympic moment. It has arrived.
The 400-meter specialist finally seized her gold medal on the Olympic stage, roaring to a convincing win over Britain's Christine Ohuruogu and U.S. teammate DeeDee Trotter. Richards-Ross won with a time of 49.55 seconds as Ohuruogu came in at 49.70 and Trotter 49.72.
"To come here and be successful is my ultimate dream come true," Richards-Ross said. "It is a huge weight off my shoulders."
The win brings a measure of redemption for the oft-injured three-time Olympian, who self-destructed in the 400 meters in Beijing and finished third after soaring expectations of gold. The victory also gives
Richards-Ross her fourth career Olympic medal, including golds in 4x400 relays in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 and her 400-meter individual bronze in Beijing.
After winning gold as part of the 4x400 in Athens in 2004, Richards-Ross blazed through the 400-meter heats in Beijing in 2008 and appeared ready to seize her first individual Olympic gold. But she came out fast and overextended herself in the first 100 meters of the Beijing final, fading down the stretch and getting edged in the final meters by Britain's Christine Ohuruogu and Jamaica’s Shericka Williams.
"I kept telling myself, 'You are the champion, you are the champion,' but to actually accomplish it was really tough," Richards-Ross said.
That bronze finish would be slightly more palatable after Richards-Ross had a brilliant 2009 world championships in Berlin, Germany, where she captured gold in the 400 and 4x400 relay. But the win also conjured memories of what could have been in Beijing, and once again ratcheted up expectations that Richards-Ross was ready to emerge as a consistently dominant runner.
But that wouldn't be the case. Freak quad, ankle and tailbone injuries to Richards-Ross in 2010 slowed her to the point that she finished seventh in the 2011 final of the 400 meters world championships in Daegu, South Korea. That made the last year of her career one of rebuilding and redemption.
Richards-Ross repeatedly told reporters she feels like she is running some of her best races and is perhaps as healthy as she has ever been. She easily won her opening and semifinal heats here, once again positioning herself as a favorite in the gold medal final. This time, she delivered.
"I got out really well in the first 50," Richards-Ross said. "On the turn I told myself, 'Be patient, be patient. The last last 100 I kept saying, 'You can do this.' I dug deep and crossed the finish line first. I'm really happy."
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