Retired Olympian and former Women’s Running cover model Sanya Richards-Ross is in the news this week following the June 6 release of her memoir Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life. In addition to discussing her experiences as an Olympic athlete, her faith and her marriage to former New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross, Richards-Ross’ memoir reveals details about an abortion she had days before the 2008 Summer Olympic Games began–details that were not public knowledge before this week.
The memoir explains her struggle with simultaneously striving toward the peak of her athletic career and facing an unexpected pregnancy with Ross (her fiancé at the time). “Everything I ever wanted seemed to be within reach,” Richards-Ross writes. “The culmination of a lifetime of work was right before me. In that moment, it seemed like no choice at all.”
Richards-Ross traveled to Beijing immediately following the procedure, despite her doctor’s advice to rest. Shortly after, she won the bronze in the women’s 400-meter race, an event in which she’d expected to take first place. After citing a cramped hamstring and lack of sleep for her underwhelming performance, she rebounded to help her 4 x 400-meter relay team win the gold.
Over the next few years, Richards-Ross’ athletic profile continued rising. She was named the Female Athlete of the Year by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in 2009. Three years later, she returned to the Olympics in London and achieved her career goal of winning the 400 meters. Richards-Ross also won her second gold medal for the 4 x 400-meter relay at the Olympics that summer.
Richards-Ross also commented in an interview with Sports Illustrated that she “literally doesn’t know another track athlete who hasn’t had an abortion,” something that caused a lot of people to turn their heads toward a tremendous statement about such a controversial topic.
Earlier this year, Richards-Ross and Ross announced that they were expecting their first child after seven years of marriage. Though Richards-Ross writes in her book that “abortion would now forever be a part of my life,” she has in recent interviews expressed an interest in inviting other female athletes to engage in discussions about abortion. “I think there are lots of young girls who experience this, especially female athletes,” she told espnW.com. “I look forward to having more discussions about it and helping young women heal from it.”