“I Made A Decision That Broke Me:” Sanya Richards-Ross Reveals Abortion Weeks Before 2008 Olympics
Most of us can’t even begin to imagine the sacrifices professional athletes make for the sake of their sport, their team, and, yes, the W. In her new memoir, Olympic Gold Medalist Sanya Richards-Ross reveals a daunting decision she made just weeks before the 2008 Olympic games. After finding out she and her then-financé Aaron Ross were unexpectedly pregnant just as they were both starting their professional athletic careers, she had an abortion.
“Everything I ever wanted seemed to be within reach,” she writes in Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me about God and Life. “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?
“Over the phone, we didn’t go into details,” the 32-year-old explains of she and her now-husband’s silent decision to abort, “As if not saying it would alleviate some of the guilt and the shame.”
Because Aaron, who went on to play for the New York Giants, was in training camp, Sanya had the abortion alone “quickly,” People notes. But healing from the emotional wound it left proved not to be as rapid as the procedure itself.
“I made a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal. 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.”
The very next day Sanya flew to Beijing for the Olympics, against her doctor’s recommendation that she avoid exercise for two weeks following the procedure. During the race on July 1 she caught a cramp in her hamstring and landed in third place “broken, physically and emotionally.”
And it wasn’t just the loss on the track that hurt Sanya, it was also the feeling of abandonment from Aaron.
“I always harbored some resentment toward Ross. It was our mess-up, but I felt abandoned in the decision,” she writes. “It was like by not saying anything, neither agreeing nor opposing, he kept his conscience clear, but it wasn’t fair. We were in it together.
“[Ross] explained to me that he was just as burdened by the decision as I was. He believed that our child in 2008 was a blessing we had rejected by always wanting to be in control.”
Nine years later, the couple has been able to put that painful moment in time behind then, announcing on Valentine’s Day of this year that they are expecting.
Explaining the title of her book and her decision to reveal her abortion to ESPN, Sanya said:
“The name of the book is called ‘Chasing Grace.’ Chasing is something I’ve been doing all my life. I’m chasing gold medals; I’m chasing records, and chasing the best version of myself. So, for me, if I didn’t share the toughest moment in my life where I felt God’s grace the most, it would be disingenuous to this journey. I think there are lots of young girls who experience this especially female athletes. I look forward to having more discussions about it and helping young women heal from it.”