Olympic 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross is quite accustomed to adoring fans all over the world. But it is quite clear that the ones that matter most are the students and staff at her alma mater, Vaz Preparatory.
The Jamaica-born US track star was a special guest at the school's devotion yesterday morning, where she handed over a cheque for US$10,000 (J$900,000), which is to assist financially challenged members of the school's track and field programme.
A teary-eyed Richards-Ross, who while at Vaz as a nine- year-old student years ago told a teacher that she wanted to become an Olympic champion, charged the students to make the most of the opportunities presented.
"Every time I come to Vaz I just feel this tremendous pride because this is the place where I discovered my love for learning and my love for sports. This is where I was encouraged to be successful," said Richards-Ross.
conceive the dream
"It feels amazing to be back. I even got a bit emotional standing here, knowing this is where I used to have devotion as well and started to conceive the dream of being an Olympian, so it was very special for me," she told The Gleaner, noting that she expects the donation to have a meaningful impact.
"I expect it to help in a big way. You hear of the parents who have very talented kids but sometimes just can't afford it, and it really breaks my heart because I am very thankful that my parents made the sacrifice to keep me in school. So if I can help the next Sanya Richards-Ross then it's all worth it," Richards-Ross noted.
Principal Karlene Bisnott was grateful for the contribution, citing that it will serve as a source of inspiration for the students.
"Sanya always comes back. Once she is here she always pays us a visit. This contribution is a meaningful one because we have several members of our track and field team who are finding it difficult to remain in school, so this will go a long way in ensuring that they remain in school," said Bisnott.
"It really is a source of inspiration and motivation, especially for the members of the track and field team, and I am hoping that it aspires them to even greater things," she added.
Richards-Ross was scheduled to leave the island yesterday. Her Olympic success capped a largely successful season that also included victory at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, earlier this year.