Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross, known as the fastest woman in history (at 400 meters) in track and field, suffered a career-ending injury in 2016 after training to compete in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but says she now sees how God worked it all together for good.
Richards-Ross released her debut memoir, Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life, on June 6. In the memoir, she talks about her journey to Olympic fame, opens-up about her battle with shame after having an abortion, her relationship with husband and former NFL cornerback Aaron Ross, and how faith sustained her after she pulled her hamstring during the Olympic trials in 2016 and announced her retirement.
"A lot of times when we're going through transitions in life, it's very difficult. But I think for me personally, with that particular instance in my life, I feel like God was preparing me a few years prior [to it]. So, I had prepared my heart, mind, my body for that transition," Richards-Ross said in an interview with The Christian Post of ending her career prematurely.
While she had hoped to win another Olympic gold medal, it wasn't God's plan for her life.
"God had a different plan for me and when I pulled out and I didn't finish that race, I hung my head down because instantly I thought, 'Oh my gosh it's really not happening,'" Richards-Ross said. "This negative energy started to wash over me, but [then] a woman in the stands yelled out, 'We love you, Sonya,' and I felt like that was a God moment for me because it brought me back to the moment.
"I remember looking up instead of looking down and everyone in the stands got up and gave me a standing ovation," she said.
In that moment, the athlete realized what an amazing ending to her career she had.
"I felt so loved and appreciated by all the fans that were there in Hayward field that day," she added. "I feel like there's always a silver lining even when it starts to rain. Me personally, I was already preparing for that transition so it wasn't as hard as it might have been had that come totally out of nowhere.
"I know for sure God was working it all for my good, and I've been able to transition. I started working with NBC immediately after that. It's hard a lot of times when you're going through it, but if you can stay positive and keep trusting the journey, I think you will always see that God is working everything together for good."
In her new book, Chasing Grace, the mother-to-be also opened up about suffering from an autoimmune skin disorder called Behcet's disease that has greatly affected her life. When talking about the experience with CP, she recalled having ulcers in her mouth and skin lesions.
"It made me feel like I wasn't beautiful and that was really hard for me because as an athlete, you don't wear a lot of clothes," Richards-Ross revealed. "As a female athlete, I feel like we have the pressure of not only being great on the track or on the field, but also looking good and keeping well, which are all things that people expect from female athletes.
"It was really tough for me but I think during that time it really taught me what true beauty is. I learned that when I was happy and when I embraced my struggle and didn't question God, I felt like my inner beauty would radiate through my skin," she shared.
Richards-Ross maintains that although nothing had changed on the outside, she learned to be happy with herself.
"I realized during that time of struggling with my external beauty that it was really all about being beautiful on the inside and loving people and being kind and humble," the gold-medalist said. "It's not about what we look like — it's not about hair or makeup or any of that stuff. It's truly about keeping your soul and being positive, and that radiates."
Richards-Ross won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London after an unexpected loss at the Beijing games in 2008. Now off the track,she's an entrepreneur, TV personality, public speaker and humanitarian. She also runs The Gold Standard, a nonprofit organization that works to raise awareness and provide financial assistance to Olympic hopefuls.
Richards-Ross is also the founder of the Sanya Richards-Ross Fast Track Program that has provided hundreds of children in Kingston, Jamaica, with literacy training, physical education and healthy meals. In addition, Richards-Ross executes sports clinics across the United States to educate and empower youth with tools to excel both on and off the track.
For more information on the five-time Olympic medalist or her book, Chasing Grace, click here.