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'No short cut to success' - Richards

Published:Saturday | January 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

For United States 400m World champion Sanya Richards, the road to success has no short cuts.

Richards was the special guest at the RJR Sports Foundation Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards ceremony, held at The Jamaica Pegasus on Thursday night.

The Jamaica-born athlete told her fellow sports personalities to uphold the values of fair play and commit to hard work as they strive to achieve their goals.

"We know that there are no short cuts to success. As we have seen over and over again in our sport, those short cuts are shortlived," Richards said.

"One of the things that I can say without reservation or doubt is that one of the greatest feelings one can get is achieving your goals and knowing you did it the right way," she added.

Richards said coming back to the place where she spent the early days of her life and got introduced to the sport she loves; and to speak in the presence of its top sporting luminaries, was an emotional and humbling experience.

The 24-year-old star was born in Kingston and attended Vaz Preparatory School and Imma-culate High before migrating and changing her allegiance to the United States (US). She was presented with an opportunity to represent that country at the World Junior Championships in 2002 which was, ironically, held in Jamaica.

The athlete's immense talent was first spotted by noted local coach, Raymond 'KC' Graham, while Richards was a student at Vaz.

She explained her decision to represent the US and gave an emotional and personal insight into her own experiences and challenges.

"When I was 16 years old I was presented with an amazing opportunity. I was approached by a woman and asked to join the US team and to compete at the World Juniors. I was so excited, as I believed it was the next step for me, and I believed it would help me to continue developing friendships I had already created," shared Richards.

"It wasn't until she sent all the paperwork that I realised that there was one small problem. At the time the decision seemed easy, I wanted to be on the team with all my friends and this lady saw my talent and wanted to help me develop it. In retrospect, it was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make."

The track star has had to endure a number of personal and

professional hurdles.

After securing a 400m silver medal at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki and another impressive year with gold and silver medal runs in the 400m and 200m, respectively, the following year at the World Athletics Finals, Richards struggled in 2007 and 2008 with respective fifth-place (200m) and third-place (400m) finishes at the Osaka World Championships and Beijing Olympic Games.

She returned to win the one-lap event in Berlin last year ahead of Jamaica's Shericka Williams, to end a turbulent spell that also included a diagnosis of the Behçet's disease.

"In sports I have had my share of ups and downs. I have had my highs of 2006 and 2009 and my low points of 2007 and 2008," Richards said.

"However, the most difficult time of my career was when I was diagnosed with the Behçet's disease. It was hard not knowing if this illness was life-threatening, if it would inhibit me from competing or if it was going to get worse. It was an obstacle I never saw coming," she admitted.

- A.L.


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PLEASE SEE success, b7