Richards-Ross ready to embark on 200-400 endeavor

From the pictures she’s seen through a virtual tour, Sanya

Richards-Ross has a beautiful new home in Jacksonville, Fla.,

awaiting her arrival.

She’s looking forward to moving into the place her husband,

Aaron Ross, a recently signed defensive back for the Jaguars,

picked out for the power couple.

Only, it won’t be anytime soon.

Richards-Ross has no spare time to even think about packing and

relocating from her training center in Austin, Texas. Not this

close to the London Olympics and especially not now, after adding

the 200-meter race to her signature event, the 400.

With all the focus on Allyson Felix possibly attempting the

200-400 double this week at Olympics trials, Richards-Ross will

instead be the sprinter going after the difficult double.

It’s a lot to tackle for a runner who’s still fighting a

baffling illness.

Then again, Richards-Ross prefers a swift pace, whether it’s on

the track or in life.

”That’s how my brain operates. I need a million things going on

at one time so I can do one thing well,” said the 27-year-old

Richards-Ross, who easily won her 400 heat Friday night on a

rain-soaked track, finishing 0.55 seconds ahead of Debbie Dunn.

After two injury-plagued and inconsistent seasons, Richards-Ross

is rounding back into her top form again, the one that led to a

2009 world title in the 400. That crown meant a lot to her, simply

because it showed Richards-Ross she could indeed win on the biggest

of stages.

Before that race, she had a resume filled with narrow misses at

major meets.

At the top of the list was her performance at the 2008 Beijing

Games. She was the favorite entering the 400, but faltered down the

stretch and faded to third place.

Heartbroken, she dissolved into tears immediately after the

race.

She hasn’t watched many replays of that race, just enough to

remember the sting of the moment.

”I can remember the feeling of crossing the finish line and

being so disappointed,” Richards-Ross said. ”I learned a lot from

that – about being patient, not just in race, but throughout the

season. I’m definitely using that to prepare myself for this year.

I know I have a better performance in me than in 2008.”

So far, she’s off to a flying start. Richards-Ross has the top

time this season in the 400 when she finished in 49.39 seconds at

the Prefontaine Classic on the famed Hayward Field track earlier

this month.

Not only that, but she also has the best mark in the 200,

clocking 22.09 a week later in New York.

”She’s in a different orbit right now,” her longtime coach,

Clyde Hart, said. ”She’s doing things in training and in workouts

that she’s never done before.”

Partly because she’s feeling healthier than ever. She spent five

years fighting an autoimmune disease called Behcet’s syndrome, only

to discover that maybe it was misdiagnosed.

A visit to a new doctor last year resulted in a new diagnosis, a

new course of treatment and a renewed sense of relief.

With Behcet’s, Richards-Ross experienced ulcers inside her mouth

so painful she could barely eat or talk and lesions up and down her

legs so piercing she struggled to stretch before running. She was

on medication that helped and it led to fewer flare-ups.

Now, she’s being treated for a skin disease and she’s on milder

medication.

”I’m off the other ones and I can tell a difference in my

training,” Richards-Ross said. ”I don’t feel the same fatigue

that I used to feel. No more joint pains. I’m very happy and

hopefully the worst is behind me.”

Hart has definitely noticed a difference.

So much so that he’s even drawing comparisons to his former

student, Michael Johnson, who became the first man to win both the

200 and 400 at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

”Sanya’s at the same place Michael was at in 1995 and `96, when

he broke through and started running record times,” Hart said.

”She’s gotten stronger and learned the race a little bit more. I

think it’s that time for her.”

Had the races been reversed and the 200 up first, Richards-Ross

isn’t sure she would be attempting this challenge. That’s why Felix

shied away from the 400, because she doesn’t want anything to

interfere with her 200. The 400 comes first on the schedule at both

the Olympics and at trials.

Felix attempted the 200-400 double at worlds in South Korea last

summer, only to finish second in the 400 and then wind up a

disappointing third in the 200, when she didn’t have her customary

kick because of fatigue.

”I said from the beginning that what’s most important for me is

what’s going to help me run my best 200,” said Felix, who will

also run the 100.

Making the 200 team will be no easy task. The field includes not

only Felix and Richards-Ross, but also Carmelita Jeter, Bianca

Knight and Shalonda Solomon.

”I look forward to seeing the best line up,” said

Richards-Ross, who needs to finish in the top three to earn a spot

on the Olympic squad.

There was a time when Richards-Ross viewed this Olympics as her

last. She wants to start a family one day and didn’t know if she

would be around for the Rio Games.

Suddenly, she’s having a change of heart.

”I still feel young and fresh,” she said. ”If I’m healthy, I

want to go to Brazil.”

Even sooner than that, she wants to start moving into her new

house. Judging by what she’s seen in pictures, her husband has

picked out a winner. Ross signed a three-year deal with the Jaguars

in March after helping the New York Giants to a Super Bowl

title.

”It’s a very nice place,” Richards-Ross said. ”That’s the

nice thing about Jacksonville – you get a lot of land. It has

beautiful weather, beautiful palm trees. It’s going to be like a

resort every day.”