ABOVE PHOTO: Sanya Richards-Ross.
By Mark Long
LONDON–Sanya Richards-Ross wore her Olympic gold medal around her neck late into the night, got a few hours of sleep, said goodbye to her husband and then headed back to the track.
She put the celebration on hold.
When it resumes, it could just be twice as nice.
Richards-Ross, who won gold in the women’s 400 meters Sunday, returned to Olympic Stadium the following day and advanced to the semifinals of the 200 meters. She won her opening race in 22.48 seconds , the fastest time in any of the six heats.
She showed off her closing speed again, this time moving from fourth to first over the final 60 meters.
“Coach wanted me to come off the turn in front,” Richards-Ross said. “I thought I had it, then I saw them (ahead), so I didn’t want to chance it.”
She found another gear, made up ground and pulled away late , much like she did in winning the 400. Richards-Ross advanced to semifinals Tuesday night, just two races from a second gold.
Maybe the most impressive part was she did it despite a night filled with distractions , the euphoria of a medals ceremony and having friends and family members, including her husband, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Aaron Ross, with her afterward.
“Not much (sleep),” she said. “My entire family … we all got together, my coaches, (Aaron) Ross, everybody was there. We kind of celebrated until about 2 this morning. Everybody kept saying, ‘Go to sleep, go to sleep, you have to run tomorrow.’ Even when I laid down I couldn’t sleep. I was just so excited.
“I probably got four or five hours of sleep max. But I’m excited to be on the track again. I just feel lighter and free and so I’m just going to go out there and give it my best and hopefully make it through the semifinals as well.”
Richards-Ross considered sleeping with her medal , her first individual Olympic gold , but instead decided to put somewhere else for safe keeping.
“I had my gold medal on all night,” she said. “I’ve never done that, worn the medal. I actually laid down in it for a minute, then I gave it to my dad, who has been on this journey with me and has worked so hard to help me accomplish my goals. He’s now the proud , temporary , holder of my medal.”
Where will it end up?
“In Austin, (Texas), we have all of (his Super Bowl) rings, his Thorpe Award and all my awards,” she said. “It’s definitely going to be added to that collection.”
That gold might just get some company, but a tough field could have something to say about it.
Two-time defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica barely advanced out of the opening round, finishing third in her heat in 22.75 seconds.
Americans Carmelita Jeter, the silver medalist in the 100 on Saturday, and Allyson Felix, the runner-up in the 200 at each of the past two Olympics, also qualified. So did the other two Jamaicans in the field: two-time 100 champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Sherone Simpson.
“I felt pretty good,” Jeter said. “It’s the first round, so you can’t get too excited. I just wanted to go out and wake my body back up and get my mind back to where it needs to be. Right now, it needs to be in the 200.”