Track & Field

Four-time gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross talks Sha'Carri Richardson and Olympic track and field trials

The 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris take place from July 26 to August 11

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Retired Team USA track star, University of Texas-Austin alum and four-time Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross talked with NBC 5's Laura Harris ahead of the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials.

Richards-Ross is now an analyst for NBC Sports for track and field and has been following many of the athletes, including notable North Texans, who will be in Eugene, Oregon for the trials June 21-30.

In her time on the track, she won Olympic gold in the 4x400 meter relay in 2004, 2008 and 2012. She also won gold in the 400 meter at the London Games in 2012 and bronze in the 400 meter Beijing in 2008.

Retired Team USA 4-time Olympic gold medalist and UT Austin alum Sanya Richards-Ross has joined NBC in covering track and field at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. NBC 5's Laura Harris talked to Richards-Ross about what she is expecting from Team USA, especially Dallas' own Sha'Carri Richardson.

What are you looking for at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic trials?

“I honestly feel like Team USA may have never had this much depth and star power across so many different disciplines. It’s really been incredible to see these young athletes truly develop into superstars and I'm just really excited for what America has to look forward to coming this summer in Paris. From the 100 [meters] all the way through the 800 [meters], there's just somebody to root for and I'm just really excited for them. I think they've been developing well, and I also got to say this, it's been a really tough four-year cycle for these athletes having COVID in 2020 that postponed the Olympics. I can't imagine how difficult that was. Then just back-to-back to back and in track and field, usually you have a year off where you get to kind of take a break and regroup and these athletes have been going from 2021, 2022 and 2023 and now to Paris. My hat goes off to a lot of them for being able to stay healthy, stay motivated, stay consistent. I feel like a lot of them are at their best and it's going to be a great showing for team USA this year.”

How much is this sport the mental component and not just the physical training, especially when everyone has to perform at trials in order to make the team?

“I think that over the last couple of years, we have seen just how important mental health and you know, focusing on your mental fortitude and strength is so important for these athletes. I think that, like I mentioned, it's been even tougher for them, you know, these last four years leading up to this point. I think the athletes have proven to do a really good job.

For example, you look at someone like Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone who I think balances the pressure so well. I feel like she is on social media just enough. I feel like she's insulated herself with a great team of people. She keeps the main thing, the main thing. I think that’s what’s important, especially in this time for athletes. I didn't grow up where social media was so prominent when I was competing, like the worst you would get [were] emails from people saying stuff, it wasn't like, this instant feedback all the time on everything that you do. I think that athletes are finding their way. You’ve seen so much maturity in Sha’Carri Richardson. Every time she speaks now she's like, ‘I'm owning this role and I'm learning a lot about myself and I'm growing.’ We’ve seen it play out right in front of our eyes and so they're doing a really good job of balancing it all because it's really, really hard when you put the pressure that you put on yourself. Then you add on the pressure of all the other things and then the outside world and all the noise in the market, it can be very challenging."

Three words to describe [reigning fastest woman in the world] Dallas-native Sha’Carri Richardson.

“Wow! She is a superstar. She is dynamic and she's a champion. She stepped on the track last season and really quieted all the noise about her by winning her first world title against one of the toughest fields that could have been assembled. I think for her and I hope for her, that gave her tremendous confidence because we all know the talent is there. It’s just about her running in that confident, authentic, body of hers and giving it everything that she has. I am excited to see what she does this season. It’s really shaping up to me to be Sha’Carri’s year. I think she could really back up that world championship with her first Olympic gold medal.”

What are you most looking forward to with the Paris Olympics?

“I'm looking forward to a lot. It was a little bit disappointing in the last Olympics in Tokyo because there were no fans in the stands. I can't imagine how tough that was for the athletes because you dream about this moment your whole life and a part of that is running in front 50,000 or 60,000 or 70,000 people. I'm really excited for athletes, especially the ones where Tokyo was their first Olympics to now get the full Olympic experience to have the fans there cheering them on and to hear 'USA' or to hear the host country. It changes the dynamics of the competition. I’m also looking forward to seeing Sydney [McLaughlin-Levrone] back on the track to seeing Sha’Carri.”

NBC 5 is your Olympics station with the Opening Ceremony starting off the 2024 Summer Games from Paris on July 26.

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