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Sanya Richards-Ross reveals abortion before Beijing Olympics

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Sanya Richards-Ross revealed she had an abortion the day before she flew to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics in her book, “Chasing Grace,” released Tuesday.

“It seemed like I had no choice at all,” wrote Richards-Ross, the 2008 Olympic 400m bronze medalist and 2012 Olympic 400m champion. “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?”

Richards-Ross also wrote, “most of the women I knew in my sport have had at least one abortion.” She added to Sports Illustrated during her media tour Tuesday, “I literally don’t know another female track athlete who hasn’t had an abortion.”

Richards-Ross, now retired, was engaged to then-NFL cornerback Aaron Ross at the time of her abortion in 2008. She told Ross over the phone that she was pregnant before the decision to have an abortion.

“I made a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal,” Richards-Ross wrote. “Abortion would now forever be a part of my life. A scarlet letter I never thought I’d wear.”

They later were married and are now expecting a child. She is an NBC Sports track and field analyst after retiring following failing to make the Rio Olympic team.

Richards-Ross was the 400m favorite going into Beijing. She wrote that a doctor recommended she have “no activity” for two weeks following the abortion. That was an order she could not follow. She didn’t tell her coaches or her father.

“Winning was the only medicine I thought I needed,” she wrote.

In the 2008 Olympic 400m final, Richards-Ross led by more than five meters entering the last 100m straightaway.

But Richards-Ross was passed by Brit Christine Ohuruogu and Jamaican Shericka Williams. Richards-Ross tearfully took bronze, saying a hamstring injury slowed her at the 300m mark.

“I literally prayed about that [revealing the abortion] for almost two years because it is something that is really private, and a lot of women don’t talk about it,” Richards-Ross said on a podcast. “When I found out I was pregnant before the Olympics, it was the toughest time of my life. … It wasn’t an easy story to share. Even, I think about, oh my god, I wonder how people are going to receive it. But, ultimately, I did it to glorify God and to tell people that you can come back from any decision, no matter how hard it is to make.”

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Injuries bite biggest Olympic track and field stars as Trials begin

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EUGENE, Ore. — Around the time Sanya Richards-Rosstorn right hamstring ended her career on the Hayward Field backstretch, Usain Bolt was being diagnosed with a torn hamstring of his own.

Allyson Felix, running in significant pain and in a 400m first-round heat following Richards-Ross, managed her injury to finish second and advance to Saturday’s semifinals, the second of a planned six races in nine days at Hayward Field.

An anticipated update from Felix on her grade-two right-ankle sprain with partially torn ligaments was not available. She left the track and did not pass by media. Word came that she was receiving treatment for the toughest injury of her decorated career.

The Rio Olympics open Aug. 5. Track and field is the marquee sport. And its headliners are ailing.

Not only Bolt and Felix, but also concerning is the form of Ethiopian distance queen Genzebe Dibaba, who failed to finish in her first race since March 20 and was wheeled out in a chair on Thursday.

In Eugene, the first day of Trials saw the end of Olympic careers for Richards-Ross, the 2012 400m gold medalist, plus lesser-known veterans — 2004 shot put gold medalist Adam Nelson and 2012 shot put bronze medalist Reese Hoffa.

Three more Olympic medalists in their twilights — Jeremy WarinerDeeDee Trotter and Bernard Lagat — came into races Friday as underdogs and remained that way afterward, though their Trials are not yet finished.

Richards-Ross’ right hamstring, torn in a 100m race June 4, would not let her accelerate to a speed fast enough to advance out of her heat Friday.

She came to a stop with about 150 meters to go. Her first thoughts?

“No Rio. No Rio,” she said. “That’s the toughest part for every athlete is you really want to go to the Olympics. No matter how banged up you are, you still think it’s possible.”

Richards-Ross, largely sidelined by toe problems since her London title, had said in April this would be her final season. She said Friday night, just before tears began flowing, that the Olympic Trials were her final meet.

Richards-Ross has a book coming out in 2017, wants to work in broadcasting and start a family with husband Aaron Ross, an NFL cornerback.

“This is really the end of it for me,” she said.

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Richards-Ross, 31, and Wariner, 32 and the 2004 Olympic men’s 400m champion, have long been stablemates under venerable Baylor coach Clyde Hart.

Wariner, too, is present for one more Olympic Trials. After being sick for a month and a half, he reached the 16-man 400m semifinals with the 12th-best time Friday. It took his best race of the season to advance. Wariner has no real expectations for the rest of the weekend.

“If I make the next round, enjoy it, run my heart out, leave it all on the track,” he said. “Then if I make final, do it again.”

Wariner has a Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches franchise in Dallas, Texas, waiting for once he completes his final lap.

“I’m looking for the future,” Wariner said, his trademark shades resting on his forehead while speaking to media for 20 minutes after his 46-second race, “but at the same time do what’s in the present.”

In the 10-day Trials’ very first event, Nelson returned to the shot put circle for qualifying in the morning, six days before his 41st birthday.

Nelson was here to bring more attention for athletes’ rights amid growing sponsorship and contract disputes. And to inspire younger athletes.

He was introduced in front of a sparse crowd as “Olympic champion Adam Nelson” for the first time. Nelson, originally the Athens 2004 silver medalist, was upgraded to gold in 2013 after Ukraine’s Yuriy Bilonog was stripped for doping.

“Waited a long time to hear that,” Nelson, the man known for his intense, shirt-ripping pre-throw routine, said as he fought to hold back tears. “As Olympians we have to know the process, and medals are just tangible reminders or a representation of everything that it took to get to that moment. For eight years in my life, a silver medal sort of changed the way I looked at things. It really inspired me to keep going in the sport.”

Nelson was later honored at the Trials’ opening ceremony with the medal presentation he should have received 12 years ago in Olympia. Then Nelson, recently slowed by a groin injury, finished an admirable seventh in the shot put final.

“Things don’t always hold together the way they’re supposed to,” Nelson lamented of aging.

Later Friday night, the 41-year-old Lagat dropped out of the 10,000m final that would be won by Galen Rupp for a second straight Olympic Trials. He didn’t cite injury, though Lagat had not raced since May 28, according to Tilastopaja.org, when he dropped out of the Prefontaine Classic 5000m with a cold.

Lagat, a 2000 and 2004 Olympic 1500m medalist when he represented Kenya, said he pulled the plug Friday night when he realized his chance of finishing in the top three to make the Rio team was weak. He’s conserving energy for the 5000m, which starts here Monday.

“I’m a guy that looks forward,” Lagat said. “I still have one more shot.”

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Allyson Felix advances in 400m at Olympic Trials; Sanya Richards-Ross out

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Allyson Felix blocked out the knifing agony in her right ankle and made her first run at Olympic Trials look like a jog Friday night.

Sanya Richards-Ross felt a different kind of pain.

On a night Felix cruised on auto-pilot in the 400-meter qualifying round to keep her chance at a 200-400 double alive, Richards-Ross bid a tearful adieu to the fans, after pulling up 250 meters into her lap around the track — her hamstring too tight to carry on.

“I’ve had an amazing career,” Richards-Ross said. “To have my last race be here, at Hayward Field, in front of these fans, it’s incredible.”

In addition to her four Olympic gold medals, including the individual title at the London Games, Richards-Ross holds the stadium record in Eugene — better known as Track Town USA. It was here, five weeks ago at the Prefontaine Classic, that fans got their first true glimpse of what might be coming. Richards-Ross finished seventh that day.

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In this one, her first 15 steps out of the blocks were smooth, but she went from a sprint to a trot. By the time she hit the first curve on the backstretch, she was slowing. And then she pulled up completely.

“Let’s be honest, I hurt my hamstring real bad,” she said. “I worked with a great doctor just to get out on the track today.”

After she pulled up, she walked to the finish line. Fans rose from their seats and Richards-Ross blew kisses.

She earned as many of those fans through her failures as her successes — her long battle with illness and injuries, her third-place finish in Beijing that left her weeping underneath the stands, then, finally, the gold medal in London.

“Most fans have seen my heart through my running,” Richards-Ross said. “I don’t win every time I step on the track. I don’t deserve the ovation because I’m always a champion. But I think they see my heart, my determination, my desire to be a good person.”

Now, though, they’ll be watching Felix and others finish up the 400.

Felix finished second in her heat, posting a time of 51.96 seconds, then headed straight to the trainer’s room for treatment.

She hurt the ankle in the spring and has had a rough time coming back — forced to do most of her running the wrong way around the track so as not to put the injured ankle at more risk.

She has less than 18 hours to recover. Her semifinal heat is set for Saturday afternoon.

The top qualifier to the 400m semi-final was Courtney Okolo, who set an NCAA record in April with a time of 49.71, second fastest in the world this year.

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