The Olympian hopes Rio will be her "swan song"

By Diana Pearl
March 18, 2016 01:30 PM
Credit: Michael Steele/Getty

She’s ran in three Olympic games and won a total of five medals (four gold, one bronze) – but yes, Sanya Richards-Ross is still nervous for this year’s Olympic trials.

“Whenever you work really hard for something, and you want it so badly, it’s natural to feel nervous,” she told PEOPLE at the launch of Technogym’s Skillmill (she’s an ambassador for the company). “But I do feel I am able to channel those nerves into adrenaline.”

Richards Ross has competed at four Olympic games: Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, and she is prepping to do the same in Rio this summer. In her last games Richards Ross took home two gold medals, in the 400 and the 4×400 relay, and she’s hoping to have even more success this year – and to end her career at a peak.

“This year, I’m really training from a place of love, hope and anticipation,” she said. “I really hope this will be my swan song, and I’ll be able to leave the sport on a really high note.”

Until then, Richards Ross is in full training mode. And luckily, she has quite a support group around her, including her parents, who have served as her coaches, and her husband, NFL free agent Aaron Ross.

Having a fellow elite athlete for a partner, Richards Ross says, makes all the difference when it comes to her training.

“I don’t know if I were married to someone else, who didn’t understand the intensity this takes, if our marriage would work,” she said. “But my husband gets it and supports me. It helps a lot to have people like that in your corner.”

Beyond the addition of Ross’ support (they married in 2010), a lot has changed from her first Olympics back in Athens in 2004. Then, she says, she was the team “baby” – and now, she says she’s the team “grandma.”

But with this experience comes wisdom – and she has a few tips to pass along to her fellow competitors: Take it all in and always attend the Opening Ceremonies your first year, for one, because “you never know if you’re going to go back.”

And when it comes to training, Richards Ross encouraged Olympians to stick to what they know when they arrive at the Athlete’s Village. Rather than training harder than ever in the days before their races, she suggested they stay at their typical pace.

“You learn in order to be great you have to push yourself,” she said. “And I thinks sometimes as athletes, we push ourselves too far.”

After Rio, she’ll have even more insight to offer – but will be busy with other ventures, too. She’s already launched a faux-fur line with her friend Angela Simmons, a black car service in her home city of Austin, Texas, with her husband, and she owns a salon with her sister. She’s also hoping to get into commentating – on sports and lifestyle topics.

But until the Closing Ceremonies conclude, track is her focus.

“I have a different perspective this year,” she said. “I’m leaning on the experience I had in the past, and this year just feels right.”