Sanya Richards-Ross has revealed that the day before she left for the Beijing Summer Olympic Games in 2008, she had an abortion. It’s hard to know whether this is one of those times when sharing this type of story will be beneficial to others but, regardless, it’s sad.
In her new memoir, Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life, the five-time Olympic medalist explained that, during her conversation with her then fiancé, Aaron Ross (they are now married), they didn’t go into details “as if not saying it would alleviate some of the guilt and the shame.”
Now 32, the runner wrote about her life back in 2008 and how the couple had planned to marry two years later. The pregnancy was unexpected, of course, and came just as their respective careers (he’s a cornerback for the New York Giants) were starting to take off. They felt that the timing was wrong and chose to postpone parenthood.
“Everything I ever wanted seemed to be within reach,” Richards-Ross wrote in her book. “The culmination of a lifetime of work was right before me. In that moment, it seemed like no choice at all. The debate of when life begins swirled through my head, and the veil of a child out of wedlock at the prime of my career seemed unbearable. What would my sponsors, my family, my church, and my fans think of me?”
While she said the actual procedure was over quickly, she felt that her decision “broke” her and she went through it alone. “I made a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal,” she wrote. “Abortion would now forever be a part of my life. A scarlet letter I never thought I’d wear. I was a champion— and not just an ordinary one, but a world-class, record-breaking champion. From the heights of that reality I fell into a depth of despair.”
She flew to Beijing and competed even though she was advised to avoid exercise for two weeks. Her confidence was shaken and, during her 300 meter race, she had a leg cramp and ended up finishing in third place leaving her “broken, physically and emotionally.” She did go on to win gold in the 4×400 meter relay.
Sanya Richards-Ross and her husband Aaron Ross are how expecting a baby. We wish them the best of luck.