In her new memoir Gold Medalist reveals she had an abortion just prior to 2008 Olympics

By Dave Andrusko

As a sports nut, I’ve been lucky enough over the past 60 years to see some of the greatest moments of all time, including in the Olympics. None–none–was as thrilling for me as watching the 2008 women’s 4×400 meter relay.

Going into the final baton handoff, the Americans were three meters behind the Russians, a huge deficit. But Sanya Richards, who had finished a very disappointing third a few days before when she cramped up, caught the Russian in the last twenty meters to win. She was a great ambassador for her sport, for her country, and for her God.

A couple of years back I read that Richards (now Richards-Ross) was writing a book. A tweet from her read

“My book will be so powerful. … I really hope all my experiences, good and bad, will help many be their best! #Writing #Inspired. “… Just started. … So much on my mind and in my many journals! Time to share!!”

Her book–a memoir–came out today. According to People magazine, Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life “delves into her faith, her career as a runner and her romance with [Aaron] Ross, 34, a cornerback for the New York Giants.”

In Chasing Grace , Ross-Richards reveals she had an abortion just weeks before the 2008 Olympics, a decision she regrets to this day. According to People

In 2008, they were engaged and planned to marry in February 2010. The pregnancy was unexpected, especially as they both were beginning their professional athletic careers. Richards-Ross, proudly Jamaican-American, 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?”

In the book, we’re told the abortion was done “quickly,” but the pain endured:

“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.”

After winning the 4×400 meter relay in 2008, she described 2009 as one of her best years as a runner, according to People:

But the pain the abortion inflicted on her relationship took longer to heal, she writes. After a number of years of ignoring what had happened, she and her husband (they married in 2010) discussed their true feelings.

“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.”

She adds, “[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.”

According to Chasing Grace, it was prayer and open conversation that healed their relationship with God and each other.

The couple is now expecting a child, an announcement they made in February. “Many parts of our lives have felt like a fairy tale, but this is our biggest blessing yet,” the couple told People. “We are so excited to start a family and can’t wait to begin this new adventure!”

Two quick thoughts. First, as so often is the case with an unplanned pregnancy, a woman will take a man’s silence as affirmation of the decision to abort, if not active encouragement.

But, as she put it eloquently, she subsequently resented Ross, seeing his hands-off approach as an attempt to “keep his conscience clear.” In fact, Ross believed they were making a mistake–rejecting a blessing–but kept that to himself.

Second, she felt ashamed of being single and pregnant–“What would my sponsors, my family, my church, and my fans think of me?” As you read other portions of the book quoted in the People story, you understand the significance of the title:

“The name of the book is called ‘Chasing Grace.’ Chasing is something I’ve been doing all my life.,” she said. “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.

To her credit she is sharing one of the very toughest moments –her decision to reject the blessing of their baby. As she shares her story, we can hope that it will remind us that is not just famous athletics who in times of trouble need grace–especially from family and friends.

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