Sanya Richards-Ross
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Sanya Richards-Ross, running in pain, OK if she misses Olympic team

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Reigning Olympic 400-meter champion Sanya Richards-Ross calls them gold-medal moments, when a complete stranger walks up to her and thanks her for a career that’s included plenty of celebrations, along with some tears.

Those moments are priceless for Richards-Ross, even more so with the 31-year-old retiring after the Rio de Janeiro Games. She’s a long shot to make the American squad at the Olympic trials because of a painful big toe that’s haunted her for years and a hamstring ailment that recently surfaced.

Richards-Ross insisted she’s OK if she doesn’t make the team — that it’s just as much about soaking it all in one last time.

Still, that competitive nature is hard to switch off. The four-time Olympic gold medalist and American record holder won’t go without one final kick down the back stretch.

“As an athlete, you’re optimistic until the very end. I can’t help but be that way,” said Richards-Ross, who begins Friday with a first-round heat. “If I’m in it, I can win it. If I don’t, I’m grateful that I made it this far.”

It’s been a stroll down memory lane for Richards-Ross since she arrived in Eugene earlier in the week. She and her dad went to the track and took a casual trip around it. Her dad has been by her side through her triumphs (her crowning achievement, 400-meter gold at the 2012 London Olympics) and her heartaches (finishing third at the 2008 Beijing Games when she struggled down the stretch and was later found crying underneath the stands). Not only that, but the health concerns, too — she spent five years fighting a painful autoimmune disease called Behcet’s syndrome, only to discover it may have been misdiagnosed.

“To walk the track with my dad and reflect on this amazing journey I’ve been on felt perfect,” Richards-Ross said. “I’m trying not to get too emotional, because I need to give everything on the track.”

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Her big toe is a big reason she’s calling it a career. Before this season, she had her third surgery, but the pain remains a “10” when she runs. Her shoe company, Nike, designed a spike for her to train in to take the pressure off her foot and it helps, but the pain persists.

“There’s a quality of life thing where I don’t want to run to the point that I can’t walk,” she said. “I want to run with my kids one day and not say, ‘Well, I used to run but that was only when I was young.'”

She’s long been the gold standard in the 400 since her days at the University of Texas. She was a member of the last three 4×400 relay teams that captured Olympic gold, but an individual Olympic gold eluded her until London.

Richards-Ross would love nothing more than to defend her crown in Rio, but it’s going to be difficult with a field that includes Allyson Felixeven if she has a sore ankle — up-and-comer Courtney Okolo and Francena McCorory, to name a few. Making matters worse, Richards-Ross hurt her hamstring in a race a few weeks ago, limiting her practice time. This after finishing seventh, more than 2 seconds behind the winner, during the Prefontaine Classic in late May at Hayward Field.

“Just taking it one race at a time,” said Richards-Ross, who’s trained under legendary coach Clyde Hart.

She’s already thinking about her post-race career. At the top of the list, she’d like to start a family with her husband, NFL defensive back Aaron Ross. She’s also in the process of writing a book, owns several businesses — including a luxury car service with her husband and a salon with her sister — and wants to launch a broadcasting career.

“Be the female version of Michael Strahan, because he transitioned so well,” said Richards-Ross, who lives in Austin, Texas. “I want to do something with as much fire and passion as I did my sports career.”

While there’s a chance she could be in the U.S. relay pool if she doesn’t finish in the top three, there’s also a chance this could be it. If it is, Richards-Ross said she’s not sure how she will punctuate her final big race on the track.

“It’s impossible to rehearse for something like this,” Richards-Ross said. “I want to be in the moment and whatever my emotions lead me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.”

As for how she wants to be remembered, that’s simple: Giving every race everything she had.

“I hope that fans were inspired by my effort,” Richards-Ross said. “As I was leaving the track (Tuesday), this father tapped me on the shoulder and said to me, ‘Sanya, you’ve been such a good role model for my daughter. “‘

Another gold-medal moment.

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Mo Farah focused on Chicago Marathon defense, not ruling out 10,000m double

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Mo Farah said all of his training focus is on defending his Chicago Marathon title on Oct. 13, but the British star also said Tuesday that he can wait until “the last minute” to change his mind and also enter the world championships 10,000m on Oct. 6.

“I am a reigning world champion, so I do get an automatic spot anyway,” Farah said of the 10,000m, where he is a three-time reigning world champion.

Farah transitioned to road racing after the 2017 season and was thought to be done with major track championships. Farah was the distance king for more than a half-decade, sweeping the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

Farah said Tuesday that he didn’t know what the deadline would be to enter the world championships 10,000m.

“I really don’t know. I think the last minute,” he said. “As I said, I get an automatic spot anyway. I don’t know. My main target is to defend my [marathon] title, come out to Chicago. All the training is geared toward the marathon.”

An IAAF spokesperson said Farah must be entered as part of the British team by Sept. 16 to be eligible for worlds.

British Athletics said Wednesday that its team will be selected Sept. 2.

“Should Mo wish to race the 10,000m in Doha, he would need to advise the selection panel prior to this date,” a spokesperson said.

Farah enticed his followers about the 10,000m in a July 27 Instagram with the hashtag #doha10k, referencing the site of world championships in Qatar. Farah was asked Tuesday why he included the hashtag.

“Anything is possible,” he said. “I’m a reigning champion. I get an automatic spot. There’s nothing I have to do. I just thought why not?”

It’s not an unprecedented type of move to race a 10,000m one week before a marathon. Former training partner Galen Rupp placed fifth in the 2016 Olympic 10,000m on Aug. 13, then took bronze in the marathon on Aug. 21.

Farah said he hasn’t set any major racing plans beyond Chicago. He finished what he called a disappointing fifth in the London Marathon in 2:05.39 on April 28, three minutes behind winner Eliud Kipchoge. Farah said a satisfying result in Chicago would be a win above worrying about a specific time. The last man to repeat as Chicago champ was Kenyan Sammy Wanjiru in 2010.

The 2020 London Marathon is three and a half months before the Tokyo Olympic marathon, a tight turnaround.

“I think I can get back in form for the London Marathon before the Olympics, and then the Olympics, I guess, but I haven’t decided,” Farah said. “My main target now is just Chicago, then work from there.”

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Race Imboden, Gwen Berry get probation for Pan Am Games podium protests

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DENVER (AP) — The letter went to the two protesters. The message was meant for a much wider audience.

The CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee sent letters of reprimand to hammer thrower Gwen Berry and fencer Race Imboden for protesting on the medals stand last week at the Pan American Games, but the 12-month probations that came with the letters also included a none-too-subtle signal for anyone vying for next year’s Olympics.

“It is also important for me to point out that, going forward, issuing a reprimand to other athletes in a similar instance is insufficient,” Sarah Hirshland wrote in the letters sent Tuesday. The Associated Press obtained copies of the documents.

Neither Berry’s raised fist nor Imboden’s kneel-down on the Pan Am medals stand were met with immediate consequences, in part because they happened at the tail end of the Games that were wrapping up in Lima, Peru.

Hirshland’s letter was as clear a sign as possible that athletes who try the same next year in Tokyo could face a different reaction.

It’s the IOC’s role to discipline athletes who break rules that forbid political protest at the Olympics — much the way the IOC triggered the ouster of John Carlos and Tommie Smith after their iconic protest in 1968 — though national federations can get into the mix, too. Before going to the Olympics, athletes sign forms stating they’re aware of the rules and won’t break them.

“We recognize that we must more clearly define for Team USA athletes what a breach of these rules will mean in the future,” Hirshland wrote. “Working with the (athletes and national governing body councils), we are committed to more explicitly defining what the consequences will be for members of Team USA who protest at future Games.”

Neither athlete immediately returned messages sent to them by AP via their social media accounts and agents.

Both will be eligible for the Olympics next summer, when the United States will be in the heat of a presidential campaign.

In a tweet sent shortly after his team’s medals ceremony at the Pan Am Games, Imboden said: “Racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list” of issues that need to be addressed.

Berry said she was protesting social injustice in America, and that it was “too important to not say something.”

Hirshland said she respected the perspectives of the athletes and would work with the IOC “to engage on a global discussion on these matters.”

“However, we can’t ignore the rules or the reasons they exist,” she wrote.

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