American sprint icon Sanya Richards-Ross opens up on why she snubbed Jamaica for USA

ATHLETICS American sprint icon Sanya Richards-Ross opens up on why she snubbed Jamaica for USA

Mark Kinyanjui 11:00 - 17.03.2024

Sanya Richards-Ross was born in Jamaica and spent the first 11 years of her life there before moving to the USA, where she has lived since.

Jamaican-born American sprint icon Sanya Richards-Ross has finally opened up on the real reason she opted to represent Team USA during her track and field career.

Richards-Ross was born in Kingston, Jamaica and began running at the age of seven, when she represented her school Vaz Prep in annual youth championships. 

When she was 12, her family immigrated to Florida, so that she could attend an American high school, increasing her chances of obtaining an athletic scholarship to an American university.

The 39-year-old has since fully adapted to the American culture, but opting to represent them over her native country of birth, and a direct track and field rival has always polarised opinion.

Now, Richards-Ross, who became the second American woman to win the 400 metres at the Olympic Games and the first American woman to earn multiple global 400m titles in 2012, has explained her decision.

“When I migrated at 12 - of course when we were leaving Jamaica I didn’t want to go - and so we ended up moving,” Richards-Ross said.

“When I was 16, I was invited by the US junior team to go compete at the Junior nationals. At that point, I had been at the states for four years, all my friends are American, I had pretty much adapted to the culture here, but I went to sign up and she was like ‘Oh, we need your passport’.

“I did not even realize ‘oh shoot, I am not even an American citizen!’”

Richards-Ross had to beg her parents to become American citizens as soon as possible to give her a chance to compete for the country just to beat her friends, but it turned out to be a decision that would make her leave a lasting legacy in the sport down the line.

“It wasn’t until I made that decision that I realized, ‘Oh sh*t !Excuse me girl, like, what are you doing?’”

“I was young and I wanted to compete with my teammates and then of course, I am part of Team USA and I am going to stay here and honestly, I feel like it was the best decision for me because it is beneficial to run for Jamaica.”

Richards-Ross still revels at the opportunity she got to represent the USA as it won her so many lucrative opportunities. 

“To be able to have the opportunity to wear the red, white, and blue and to get the partnership deals I got and just, all of the things that I was able to benefit from, being an American Citizen and running for team USA I think was the best decision for me.”

Following an injury at the 2016 US Olympic trials, Richards-Ross retired from the sport and subsequently joined the NBC broadcasting team as a track and field analyst.

From 2005 to 2009 and then once more in 2012, Richards-Ross dominated the world rankings in the 400m, securing the top spot.

 Her prowess was highlighted by setting the American 400m record at a staggering 48.70 seconds in 2006.

Recognized for her outstanding achievements, she was bestowed with the prestigious title of IAAF 2006 Female World Athlete of the Year, a distinction she earned once more in 2009.

 A testament to her consistency and excellence, Richards-Ross also holds the remarkable record for the highest number of sub-50-second sprints in the history of the event, totaling an impressive 49 times throughout her illustrious career.

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