LONDON - It was four years in the making, and Sanya Richards-Ross would not be denied.
On Sunday evening at Olympic Stadium, the Texas Ex and three-time Olympian ran a 49.55 in the final of the women's 400m to win her first individual Olympic gold medal in her signature event. Richards-Ross is the first American woman to win the Olympic 400m since Valerie Brisco-Hooks accomplished the feat in 1984.
"It is very, very challenging to come to the Olympic stage and give your best performance andbalance emotionally and physically," said Richards-Ross. "To come out here and be successful is my ultimate dream come true. It is a huge weight off my shoulders. I just kept saying, `you can do this, you can do this' and I dug really deep and I crossed the finish line first. I'm very happy."
Richards-Ross entered the day having comfortably won both her first-round and semifinal heats but would be challenged throughout her sub-50 second final race. She got out to a quick start but trailed Russia's Antonina Krivoshapka and fellow American DeeDee Trotter around the final turn. Great Britain's Christine Ohuruogu, who bested Richards-Ross in the 2008 Olympic 400m final, was also racing close, making it a four-runner competition down the stretch.
With four years' worth of determination, Richards-Ross turned it on in the final 100m to edge Ohuruogu (49.70) and Trotter (49.72) in the last 50 meters and secure the long-awaited Olympic gold.
"Sanya was simply amazing," said Texas head coach Beverly Kearney from London. "I have never seen her so confident and in control. It's like this was not just her desire to be an Olympic gold medalist but rather her destiny to be the Olympic champion in a race that she has not only dominated, but a race she loves. Good for you, Sanya. Good for you."
Richards-Ross' victory capped four years of successes and struggles since her bronze-medal performance at the 2008 Beijing Games. After winning the World Outdoor Championship in the 400m in Berlin in 2009, she was sidelined by an injury for much of 2010, but rallied to lead the United States to victory in the 4x400m relay at 2011 World Outdoors in Daegu, South Korea.
Richards-Ross has been impressive in 2012, winning the gold medal in the 400m at the World Indoor Championship. She owns two of the top five times in the world this year, including a then world-leading mark of 49.28 set in the 400m final at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. The time earned her a victory in the event and an automatic qualification to her third Olympic Games.
Richards-Ross will have little time to immediately reflect on her victory as competition for her second individual Olympic event, the 200m, begins Monday. Richards-Ross qualified for the 200m out of a very competitive U.S. field and will race in her first-round heat at 1:20 p.m. Central. She will be joined in the event by rising Longhorn juniors Allison Peter and Christy Udoh, who will race for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Nigeria, respectively. Richards-Ross will also race in the 4x400m relay beginning Friday, Aug. 10.
Also representing Texas on Sunday were Melaine Walker and Raasin McIntosh in the first round heats of the women's 400m hurdles. Walker, running on behalf of Jamaica, placed second in the fifth and final opening heat in 54.78 behind Great Britain's Perri Shakes-Drayton (54.62) to earn an automatic qualification for Monday's event semifinals. Her time was the eighth-best overall.
McIntosh, racing for Liberia, placed sixth in her heat in 57.39 and was 32nd overall.
Texas Ex Michelle Carter will throw in her second Olympic shot put competition tomorrow. The qualification round will take place at 4:45 a.m. Central with the final being contested at 1:15 p.m.