By Victor Ochieng
Sanya Richards-Ross is a five-time Olympic gold medalist and a successful athlete by all definitions. However, like every human being, she’s had her ups and downs, some of which even threatened to break her completely. The most traumatizing were the scars that followed an abortion she had ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Richards-Ross opens up about the experience in her new book, “Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life.” She writes, “I made a decision that broke me and one from which I would not immediately heal.”
The 400-meter sprinter decided to open up about her past experience to help young female student-athletes, doing so close to a decade after that troubling experience. She, however, explains that she kept mum about it because of the shame and guilt of having an abortion.
“I literally prayed about that (abortion) for almost two years because it is something that is really private, and a lot of women don’t talk about it,” Richards-Ross said last week on the “Newsworth with Norsworthy” podcast.
Learning of her pregnancy ahead of the Olympics was such a blow. It was just a few weeks to the games and she felt compelled to do something about it, she says in the book that was released on Tuesday.
“When I found out I was pregnant before the Olympics, it was the toughest time of my life,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy story to share. Even, I think about … I wonder how people are going to receive it. But, ultimately, I did it to glorify God and to tell people that you can come back from any decision, no matter how hard it is to make.”
It’s not something she knew alone; both she and her now husband Aaron Ross were aware of it. They’d to come to a decision. Ross and her New York Giants cornerback felt that having a baby at that time would adversely impact on their young careers. Nevertheless, Ross decided not to decisively give his approval for the abortion.
“Everything I ever wanted seemed to be within reach,” she writes in her memoir. “The culmination of a lifetime of work was right before me. In that moment, it seemed like no choice at all. The debate of when life begins swirled through my head and the veil of a child out of wedlock at the prime of my career seemed unbearable. What would my sponsors, my family, my church and my fans think of me?”
The abortion decision was settled on over the phone, choosing not to go into details.
Two weeks after the abortion, she won a gold medal in the women’s 4×400 meter relay, but that didn’t drive away the guilt and pain she was undergoing.
“Abortion would now forever be a part of my life,” she continued. “A scarlet letter I never thought I’d wear. I was a champion—and not just an ordinary one, but a world-class, record-breaking champion. From the heights of that reality, I fell into a depth of despair.”
The abortion not only affected her personally but also created some mistrust between her and Ross.
“I always harbored some resentment toward (him),” she writes. “It was our mess-up, but I felt abandoned in the decision. It was like by not saying anything, neither agreeing nor opposing, he kept his conscience clear, but it wasn’t fair. We were in it together.”
Things have changed though. The couple now says God has healed them and they’re excited even as they wait for their new baby later this year.