Sanya Richards-Ross is a five-time Olympic Gold Medalist, true Black Girl Magic! But the load carried by this incredible athlete isn’t just that of a champion, it’s much deeper and more personal. In her memoir, Chasing Grace: What The Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life (available HERE) she talks about the very difficult decision she made to have an abortion just one week before the 2008 Olympics.
According to Essence.com, She came to the decision to terminate her pregnancy with her then fiance, now husband, fellow athlete Aaron Ross over the phone. Both felt a sense of guilt, but they also understood that they were both at the beginning of their careers, with Sanya chasing Olympic Gold.
Sanya also discusses feeling a sense of shame in having a child out of wedlock, since her family is very religious with traditional values. The Jamaican-American Olympian didn’t want to disappoint her supporters nor lose out on what she had worked so hard for thus far.
“Everything I ever wanted seemed to be within reach. 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?” – Chasing Grace
The abortion took a toll on Sanya and Aaron’s relationship. He was unable to be with Sanya during the procedure because he was at training camp. Sanya had to experience the abortion alone before flying to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. She pushed through the emotional ordeal and tried to focus on winning. Despite doctor’s orders, she continued to race just days after the abortion. Perhaps due to being unable to focus, Sanya suffered an injury during the 300 meter race causing her to come in third. She would later go on to win the 4X400 meter relay with her team and take home the gold, but not without the thought of aborting her first child looming over her head and heart.
“Abortion would now forever be a part of my life. 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.”
Sanya writes about having feelings of resentment towards Aaron for not accompany her through the abortion and not talking about his feelings on it before and after the procedure. Aaron later explained to Sanya that he felt just as burdened by the decision as she was. Thankfully, they were about to get through the dark period of 2008. By 2009 her career rebounded. She went on to win IAAF Female Athlete of the Year and the following year, she and Aaron finally married.
Though Sanya experienced a great deal of hardships throughout her career, she makes it clear in her book that it has all lead up to the life she lives today and how grateful she is for everything, even the hard times. She told People Magazine:
“This book is my personal anthem and I hope readers realize they have greatness within to outlast the challenging stretches of every journey. I hope to encourage people to stay the course and achieve their highest potential.”
And on a brighter note, the Ross family is expanding. In February’s issue of People Magazine, Sanya and Aaron announced that they are expecting a child later this year!