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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Noah Lyles a must-see in Paris; Diamond League TV, live stream schedule

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The last time Noah Lyles raced a Diamond League 200m, he became the fourth-fastest man in history. His follow-up comes against a field of similar strength in Paris on Saturday

Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs live coverage from 2-4 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage starting at noon.

Lyles could look to improve on the 19.50 he ran in Lausanne on July 5, when he moved to No. 4 on the all-time list behind Usain BoltYohan Blake and Michael Johnson. There’s reason to believe he can, given the Swiss race was into a slight headwind.

And because most of the major players from Lausanne are back for Paris. That includes Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev, who won the 2017 World title while Lyles was out injured.

Two more notables — Olympic bronze medalist Christophe Lemaitre of France and Nigeria’s Divine Oduduru, the third-fastest man this year — are in Saturday’s field after missing the July event.

Lyles may also be looking at Paris as a lead-up to the two biggest international meets of the year — a Diamond League final in Brussels on Sept. 6 and the world championships in Doha three weeks later.

Here are the Paris entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:02 p.m. — Men’s Shot Put
12:35 — Women’s Triple Jump
1:17 — Women’s Discus
1:40 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:09 — Men’s High Jump
2:14 — Men’s 800m
2:24 — Women’s 100m
2:32 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:35 — Men’s 1500m
2:48 — Women’s 400m
2:57 — Men’s 200m
3:06 — Women’s 800m
3:29 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
3:50 — Men’s 110m Hurdles

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:40 p.m. ET
All six women who have cleared 4.80 meters this season are here, topped by world leader and London Olympic champion Jenn Suhr. But Suhr hasn’t won a top-level meet outside the U.S. since 2012. Watch out for Rio Olympic and world champ Katerina Stefanidi, the Greek who beat Suhr in Birmingham, Great Britain, last Sunday. And Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris at her first Diamond League in two months.

Women’s 100m — 2:24 p.m. ET
Olympic champ Elaine Thompson takes her No. 1 world ranking into her first Diamond League 100m in two and a half months. Thompson rebounded from a blemished 2018 to win June’s Jamaican Championships in 10.73 seconds, cementing herself as the world championships favorite. Three other women in this field have a personal best in the 10.8s, including 2018 U.S. champion Aleia HobbsTeahna Daniels, the surprise 2019 U.S. champ, is coming off a third-place, 11.24 finish in Birmingham against a largely unaccomplished field.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:32 p.m. ET
Americans Christian Taylor and Will Claye go head-to-head for the 48th time in this event, according to Tilastopaja.org. Taylor, who owns five combined Olympic and world titles, has a 25-22 edge and hasn’t lost to his countryman on the Diamond League level in five years. But Claye, who owns five combined Olympic and world medals (but no gold), ranks No. 1 in the world this year with his personal-best 18.14-meter mark from June 29. The winner here is likely the favorite for worlds.

Men’s 200m — 2:57 p.m. ET
Lyles has never lost to anyone in this field in senior competition. In fact, only one man has beaten him in a 200m in the last three years, countryman Michael Norman, who is focusing on the 400m this summer. Last year, Lyles made a statement by breaking 19.8 in the 200m on four separate occasions, something only Usain Bolt had previously done. Lyles is at three sub-19.8s so far this season with at least three meets left.

Men’s 110m Hurdles — 3:50 p.m. ET
Grant Holloway
, the only man to break 13 seconds this year, makes his Diamond League debut after turning professional following his junior season at Florida. He takes on the second- and third-fastest men this year, including former NCAA rival Daniel Roberts, who upset Holloway at the USATF Outdoor Championships.

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2019 U.S. Open Women’s Draw

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Serena Williams‘ big showdown at the 2018 U.S. Open came in a controversial final with Naomi Osaka. This year, her most anticipated match may be her first-round date with Maria Sharapova.

It’s one of potentially two first-week blockbusters. Osaka, the world No. 1 and defending champion, will play 15-year-old American phenom Coco Gauff in the third round should each win her first two matches.

Williams comes to New York in her seventh bid to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title. She was runner-up at three of her last five Slams and is two years removed from life-threatening childbirth.

Sharapova, who like Williams has dealt with recent injuries, has seen her ranking fall to 87th. She has lost 18 straight matches to Williams but advanced from what would have been their last meeting when Williams withdrew injured minutes before a 2018 French Open fourth-round date.

Osaka has traded the No. 1 ranking with Australian Ash Barty this spring and summer. The Japanese megastar was bounced in the first week of the last two majors and withdrew from her last U.S. Open tune-up event with a knee injury.

Gauff, who qualified into Wimbledon and then became the youngest woman to reach the fourth round since Jennifer Capriati in 1991, is playing her first U.S. Open main draw. She won the junior title.

US OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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