Five-time Olympic medalist Sanya Richards-Ross reveals in her new memoir that she had an abortion a day before leaving for Beijing, China, to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life was released on Tuesday and delves into Richards-Ross’ faith, her career as a runner and her romance with Aaron Ross, 34, a cornerback for the New York Giants.
It also talks about her decision to terminate her pregnancy, a decision that between about one in four American women make, according to the most recent statistics.
In 2008, the couple was engaged and planned to marry in February 2010. She was 23 at the time, and he 25. The pregnancy was unexpected, and Richards-Ross wanted Olympic gold.
“Everything I ever wanted seemed to be within reach,” she writes. “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?”
“It was the toughest choice of my life,” she said Tuesday to TMZ. “ … but since I was nine years old, I always wanted to be an Olympic champion. I felt like it was the choice I had to make to pursue my dreams.”
People reports that Ross wasn’t present during the procedure because he was at training camp.
The next day the track and field star flew to Beijing for the Olympics and prepared to win gold, even though her doctor recommended she avoid exercise for two weeks following the procedure. Richards-Ross reveals the night before her 300 meter race she couldn’t sleep and the next day her “confidence was diminishing.”
During the race, Richards-Ross got a cramp in her hamstring and came in at third place when she expected to win. She describes being “broken, physically and emotionally.”
However, she and her team later went on to win gold in the 4×400 meter relay. She also describes the next year, 2009, as one of her best years as a runner; that year she was named IAAF Female Athlete of the Year.
“I made a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal,” she writes. “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.”
Over 95 percent of American women who have had an abortion say they do not regret the decision.
In February, Richards-Ross and Ross announced they were pregnant with their first child.