Sanya Richards-Ross

Sanya Richards-Ross wants revenge in 2015, history in 2016

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NEW YORK — Sanya Richards-Ross at last won the Olympic 400m in her third try in 2012. Then she required two right big toe surgeries and filmed a reality TV show.

So amid all that in summer 2013, the married woman considered retiring to start a family.

“For one second,” Richards-Ross said at a Midtown Manhattan hotel Thursday, two days before she competes in the Millrose Games (NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra, 6 p.m. ET). “I accomplished my greatest goals in the sport, and I’m happy. And the injury was tough. There were days where, literally, the pain was so intense I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be able to run on my foot.

“But I think there’s something inside of athletes, this burning desire to always see how much better you can be. I don’t think I’m done yet. I still love it. I still feel like my best is yet to come.”

Richards-Ross, who turns 30 in two weeks, points to the history of her event. Michael Johnson ran his fastest time at age 31. Marie-Jose Perec and Cathy Freeman won Olympic golds in their late 20s.

The motivation is evident when Richards-Ross utters “revenge” in anticipating this summer’s World Championships in Beijing. Not for the 2013 World Championships, which she failed to qualify for due in large part to that toe, but for the 2008 Olympics in the Chinese capital. The favorite, she led off the final turn and fell behind Great Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu and Jamaica’s Shericka Williams in the final 50 meters.

“I want to conquer that track,” Richards-Ross said of the Bird’s Nest.

Richards-Ross returned in 2014 following two straight years cut short by surgeries for hallux rigidus, two bones in her big toe rubbing against each other. She couldn’t run in spikes at the 2013 U.S. Championships final due to the big toe pain.

“I think I have the sneakers record,” she joked of a sixth-place finish, 51.92 seconds.

The second surgery that summer inserted a screw and elevated the big toe permanently — “a little deformity,” Richards-Ross said.

Now, there’s less pressure when Richards-Ross pushes out of the blocks. Though one could argue that’s been the case since she finally won that individual Olympic gold in London.

Richards-Ross was back in form by late June last year, when she ran 49.66 in the U.S. Championships final in Sacramento.

She finished second to Francena McCorory, whose 49.48 was the fastest time from an American woman since Richards-Ross at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

“To be honest, 49.4 is actually a time I’ve run quite a few times, it’s not very threatening to me,” Richards-Ross said. “I think when I’m at my best, I know I can run that time and better, so what I look forward to is for me and Francena continuing to push each other.”

Richards-Ross and McCorory were the only women in the world to break 50 seconds last year and combined for seven of the eight fastest times overall. McCorory has been on Richards-Ross’ radar since 2006, when she broke Richards-Ross’ national high school indoor 400m record on a flat track.

At the London Olympics, McCorory handed the baton to anchor Richards-Ross in the 4x400m relay final.

“I know Francena wants to run sub-49,” Richards-Ross said. “My hope is that I’m in such great shape that we’re battling at 49 low, 48 seconds.”

Richards-Ross also ran the 200m at the London Olympics, finishing fifth. She says it’s “not worth it” to race the 200m anymore because of the pressure and force put on her toe blasting out of the blocks.

That will limit her races against Olympic 200m champion Allyson Felix, though Felix has said she’s more open to making the 400m her complementary event heading toward Rio. Felix (and McCorory) outran Richards-Ross at the 2011 World Championships before dropping the 400m for the 100m for London 2012.

“I welcome the best challengers,” Richards-Ross said, cracking a smile. “If Allyson wants to focus on the four, come get some.”

Richards-Ross will be older in 2016 than any woman who owns an Olympic 400m medal, according to sports-reference.com. One woman has won back-to-back Olympic 400m golds — Perec in 1992 and 1996.

“I can see this being my last Olympics,” Richards-Ross said, “but then there are some times where I’m like, I want to have a kid and come back. I think the closer you get to possibly retiring is the more you want to push that further away, because you love what you do.”

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Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Kimmie Meissner, Casey entering skating Hall of Fame

Meryl Davis, Charlie White
AP
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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — As they enter the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, Meryl Davis and Charlie White ponder just who they are joining in receiving one of the highest honors in their sport.

“One of the things that makes it so special is we are friends with and respect so much so many previous people who have gone into the Hall of Fame,” Davis said before the induction ceremony Saturday. “Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamguchi, Brian Boitano — people we look up to and now we are in their company.”

As are 2006 world champion Kimmie Meissner and the late Kathy Casey, one of American figure skating’s most successful coaches.

Davis and White, along with training partners and friends Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, were at the forefront of bringing ice dance to previously unreachable heights for Americans. Once the abyss of the sport, Americans now tend to populate podiums in international competitions.

In 2010 at the Vancouver Olympics, Davis and White followed Belbin and Agosto four years earlier as silver medalists. At the Sochi Games in 2014, they edged Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 champions, for the gold.

Davis and White won every U.S. title from 2009-14, plus two world crowns.

NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

But Davis and White were — and are — about so much more than their on-ice performances. He now coaches and she has been instrumental in the startup and development of Figure Skating in Detroit, an offshoot of the inner city Figure Skating in Harlem program that has been a rousing success in New York City.

“When we were young skaters and took the lay of the land of the sport,” White said, “we thought about becoming leaders of the sport. We recognized we would have a role as we were ascending and we felt it was a real responsibility. Be thoughtful and considerate with anyone you deal with. We tried to let our skating do the talking as competitors, but we wanted the way we conducted ourselves off the ice to be professional and helpful to the sport.

“We have felt the responsibility because of everything skating has given to us to give back responsibly and, in the end, to always be grateful.”

Meissner, still one of the few American women to master the triple Axel, also is one of those rare athletes to be a champion on all level. She won novice, junior and senior U.S. titles.

Her performance at age 16 at Calgary worlds soon after finishing sixth at the Turin Olympics as the youngest U.S. athlete not only was a highlight of her career but of any world championships.

“I was ready for that moment,” said Meissner, who also coaches and is in school to become a physician’s assistant. “I had been practicing that way pretty much before the Olympics. It was nerves at the Olympics and I was happy to salvage what I did.

“At worlds, I was not shocked at all that I skated clean at a time when it really needs to happen.”

Casey, who died in September, spent more than 50 years in the sport. She helped advance the biomechanical studies of jumps and was expert at helping skaters correct technical aspects of their performances. In 2005, she was the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Sports Science Coach of the Year.

The official U.S. coach at three Olympics, Casey coached two-time U.S. champion Scott Davis (1993-94). She was the Professional Skaters Association president from 1989 to 1994, was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2008.

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MORE: Nathan Chen leads men’s short program, followed by world team battle

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Nathan Chen leads U.S. Figure Skating Championships, followed by world team battle

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Nathan Chen broke his own U.S. Figure Skating Championships short program scoring record, hitting two quadruple jumps en route to a whopping 13.14-point lead on Saturday.

Chen, trying to become the first man to win four straight national titles since Brian Boitano in 1988, tallied 114.13 points. Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, is in second after beating Chen in artistic marks but lacking a quad. Andrew Torgashev is the surprise third-place skater going into Sunday’s free skate.

Chen hit a quad flip, triple Axel and a quad toe-triple toe combination in Greensboro, N.C., on limited practice due to a recent flu.

“I’m thrilled with it,” Chen, a Yale sophomore, said on NBC. “This was probably the least prepared I’ve been, but I really made good use of the last week, the week that I was able to actually start getting training in.”

Nationals continue later Saturday with the pairs’ free skate and the free dance, live on NBC Sports. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

How substantial is Chen’s lead? No other skater, pair or dance couple has led a U.S. Championships by double digits after a short program since the Code of Points was instituted in 2006. Chen has now done it three times in the last four years.

Chen, undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, is all but assured to lead the three-man world championships team. Who will join him is what will be determined Sunday.

Brown is in strong position to go to a fourth world championships in Montreal in March. He was clean on his three jumping passes, though the only man in the top five without a quad. Brown is the second-ranked U.S. man overall this season, coming back from a late August concussion when his Uber ran a red light, T-boned another car, then swung sideways and hit the car a second time.

“The season has been such a struggle,” Brown said. “To work through each setback and to be able to put up a performance like that, that I’ve worked so hard to do, that’s where the emotion came from.”

Torgashev, who won the 2015 U.S. junior title at age 13, made his case with a clean short featuring a quad toe. Torgashev’s best senior nationals finish in three starts was seventh last year. He is the son of two world junior medalists from the Soviet Union.

Vincent Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, has twice finished second to Chen at nationals. He was strong on Saturday considering his turbulent season, placing fourth with a quad Salchow.

Zhou attempted to match Chen last fall by balancing Ivy League classes with training. It didn’t work, and he went the entire autumn without committed skating. He decided to take a break from Brown University and move to Toronto to train under a new coach, Lee Barkell.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Adam Rippon takes pleasure in new role — coaching U.S. silver medalist

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.