Series06 Jan 2014

Work, rest and play – Sanya Richards-Ross


US 400m runner Sanya Richards-Ross (© Getty Images)

World indoor 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross is known as one of the most glamorous athletes in the world of athletics. We found out more about how the US Olympic 400m champion spends her work, rest and play time.


What are your three favourite things about being an athlete?

Sanya Richards-Ross: Number one would be winning. Nothing compares with the feeling I had at the London Olympics of knowing all the hard work I put in paid off. Secondly, I would say being able to travel the world. As international athletes that is a real luxury. Thirdly, I love competing and what I love about athletics is that uniqueness of competing against my rivals (in individual competition) but then also the camaraderie of coming together as a team for the relays.

Do you have a favourite training session?

SRR: My Monday sessions are 200m repeats – anywhere between eight and 12 – and I know if I run them like clockwork, I’m ready to run really fast. For me, it is the perfect blend between speed and endurance. I love it because I’m a sprinter at heart.

What is your least favourite training session?

SRR: Every Tuesday we do over-distance work – 2x1000m – and I dread these workouts. Any workout I run over 400m seems like I’m running a marathon. We usually get two minutes rest and the second 1000m is all about heart and guts. As you can tell, my favourite training day is a Monday and my least favourite a Tuesday.

What is your favourite music to train to?

SRR: My workout music changes depending on my mood. If I want a pick-me-up, I’ll listen to some hardcore rap music. There are also times when I really like listening to gospel and the likes of Yolanda Adams and Kirk Franklin for inspiration. Of course, because of my Jamaican roots I also like listening to the reggae of Bob Marley and Mavado.

What is the best piece of coaching advice you’ve ever received?

SRR: Clyde Hart has been my coach for the past eight or nine years and I remember beating Tonique Williams (the 2004 Olympic 400m champion) in Lausanne ahead of the 2005 World Championships, thinking I would then beat her to win the gold at the World Championships. I didn’t win (Williams did) and I was devastated. My coach said you can pout now, but there is still so much work to be done. My coach didn’t allow me to live in that moment too long.


What is your favourite way to relax?

SRR: With my family. My husband (Aaron Ross, an American footballer with the New York Giants) has a full schedule, so when we’re not competing I love to bring my family together, whether that is watching a movies or for a celebration or a birthday party.

What is your favourite stress reliever?

SRR: Shopping. I love fashion and beauty. To shop has always been a passion of mine and that relaxes me.

What is your favourite book?

SRR: Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer. I was reading the book in the lead up to the London Olympics, and the book helped me so much in keeping everything under control. It really helped with my success.

If you could pick an athlete to relax with, who would it be?

SRR: Can I choose two? I love David Rudisha. I’m so in awe of his poise and how competitive he is. So perhaps it would be less about relaxing but I would like to train with him. The other athlete is Blanka Vlasic. I always admire the way she dances and she (like me) also loves fashion and music.

What is your favourite drink to relax with?

SRR: I never had a drop of alcohol for 28 years, but I recently started drinking Moscato white wine. If I was at the beach or by a pool, that is what I would a drink. People have asked me why I started drinking alcohol and it happened one night I was out with some of the wives of the other New York Giants players. They asked me why I wouldn’t have a glass of wine and I thought, ‘you know what I’m almost 30, why not have one?’ I didn’t get drunk but it was a lot of fun.


You are renowned for your stylish outfits and look on the athletics circuit. When did your passion for fashion begin?

SRR: Fashion has always been around me and my cousin is a stylist. When I was younger I thought people wouldn’t take me seriously if I looked too girly, but later at college I started to embrace fashion. It was then I thought that I don’t feel a need to be a tomboy. I was empowered by the fact the Williams sisters (tennis players Venus and Serena) were great athletes and beautiful women. From college I started to do my make-up, doing my hair and followed the latest fashion trends. I would like to think I’ve empowered other female athletes, that it is good to wear funky, cool outfits on the field of play.

Do you have an all-time favourite outfit?

SRR: That’s a tough question. I remember I was a freshman at college and I won the USATF outstanding youth award. I went to the Jesse Owens dinner and my mum got me an amazing white dress to wear. Even to this day people mention that white dress. I guess that one stands out because I got so many compliments.

What is the most expensive piece of clothing you’ve ever bought?

SRR: My husband bought me a $6000 Louis Vuitton fur coat two year ago. It is just heavenly.

What is your favourite label?

SRR: Chanel is my favourite and J Brand.

If you could design your own piece of track wear, what would it be?

SRR: Wearing sleeves are my thing, so if I could design my uniform it would have to have the sleeves in a one-piece unitard with tights. The back would be cut out to add some flair and maybe a strip of leather because that is the trend right now with some lace on it.

Steve Landells for the IAAF