Sanya Richards-Ross in Stockholm with Sweden's European champion Moa Hjelmer (Deca Text & Bild) © Copyright
Feature 16 August 2012 – Stockholm, Sweden – Post

Olympic dream realised, Richards-Ross now targeting fast times in Stockholm – Samsung Diamond League

Stockholm, SwedenPostOlympic fatigue may be a factor for some athletes who will be renewing their Samsung Diamond League campaigns in Stockholm when the series resumes with the 46th running of the DN Galan on Friday (17) evening. But freshly-minted Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross, despite a gruelling seven-race schedule in London, isn’t among them.

"When I first arrived here I was dragging a little bit, I was lacking motivation a little bit," the American said. "But after my first workout yesterday I was feeling really good and I’m excited about getting back on the track."

Richards had no shortage of exhilarating appearances during her fortnight in the British capital. She claimed a long-sought title in the 400m, finished a respectable fifth in the 200m, and anchored the U.S. team to gold in the 4x400m Relay. After an Olympics like that, she could certainly be excused for wanting a post-London break. But there’s no room for a respite on her schedule.

"I’m definitely going to go out there tomorrow and give a great effort. My body feels good. I’ve trained really, really hard this season so I want to keep running and get faster and faster. I really hope to take down the stadium record tomorrow. That’s been a goal of mine here in Stockholm. I need to get that Diamond!"

She was referring to the one carat diamond valued at USD10,000 that organisers have on offer for any stadium record-breaker. Since 1994 65 have been awarded. The record she’ll be targeting is 49.70 set by Allyson Felix in 2007 when she edged Richards-Ross by just 0.02.

She is of course still relishing her London performances that ultimately doubled her Olympic gold medal collection to four. The most important was her triumph at 400m, an event in which, despite some ups, downs and disappointments, she was the dominant athlete for the greater part of the last decade.

"The 400 in London was very, very intense. Of course it being in London with (defending champion) Christine Ohuruogu in the race made it very, very special. The fans were very much into the race.

"I remember getting into my blocks and the last thing I said to myself was, 'Just believe.’ That was a moment I was waiting for - for so long, and to finally be able to live my dream and to finally cross the line first, it was everything I had dreamt of and more."

Richards had quite a team with her at Olympic Stadium, a group of 30 supporters that included her parents, sister and husband. But there wasn’t an opportunity to kick back and relax then either.

"The double was really tough," she said. "I didn’t have any days off. I remember going off with my family and celebrating until two in the morning and then had the 200 the next day."

"But I enjoyed the experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world. It has taught me a lot of what that double will take to potentially accomplish in the future. I’ll definitely try it again if I can stay healthy and fit.

"It was a great field. I ran 22.3. That would have medaled at the Worlds the year before and the Olympics Games before that, but it was a phenomenal field. I was really happy to be fifth in the world in the 200 and first in the 400."

There wasn't any specific training added to her routine for the shorter sprint, she said, but rather a matter of her overall speed improving from her 400m travails.

A career best 22.09 that brought her a victory at the New York Samsung Diamond League stop showed that things were progressing in the right direction.

"Of course for these Olympics my main goal was the 400. And throughout this season I wanted to get my 400 better and better. I always really wanted in my heart to try that double.

"When I ran 22.09 I thought I had a good chance to make the team and potentially medal in London. But coach (Clyde) Hart kept saying 'Let’s focus on the 400’ so we did and most of my training was geared towards the 400. And I have no regrets about that because I really wanted to win that gold medal."

A 49.0 anchor leg in the 4x400m Relay on the final day of action at Olympic Stadium brought her a third successive Olympic gold in the event with the fastest time the world has witnessed since 1993 while equaling the fifth fastest ever.

"We definitely thought about the (World) record prior to the race but I thought the Russians, Jamaicans and the Brits were going to be much closer and really push us to that time. I think I make it look easier than it is, but I was actually running pretty hard. I was very excited with our team gold."

Next up? Faster times, she confirmed. Her personal best and national record has stood at 48.70 since her victory at the 2006 World Cup in Athens.

"That was my biggest goal for the last four years, winning the Olympic gold medal. So now I definitely have that weight off my shoulders. So my goal now is to keep running faster and faster. I’m going to give my best tomorrow to start chasing those times," she said, clearly indicating that she’s no longer content with her long-standing position as history’s seventh fastest woman over the distance.

"And lowering my American record. It’s been six years so it’s time to really start focusing on that. I think I really have the freedom to do that now. So that’s my goal, to see how fast I can close the season out, and then next year really going for great performances in the 400."

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF