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Nearly a decade after winning gold at the 2008 Olympics, Sanya Richards-Ross has revealed she was carrying a secret as she crossed the finish line.
A day before flying to Beijing for the summer games, Richards-Ross had an abortion, the world champion revealed in her newly penned memoir, Chasing Grace: What The Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life.
At the time, she was engaged to football champion Aaron Ross with plans to marry in 2010. However, the pregnancy was unexpected and the timing made it all the more difficult.
"The culmination of a lifetime of work was right before me," she wrote in the book. "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?"
"Over the phone, we didn't go into details," she recalled her conversation with Ross about having an abortion. "As if not saying it would alleviate some of the guilt and the shame."
Though Ross wasn't able to be by her side because of training camp, she underwent the procedure and boarded a flight to China the next day. However, she said the choice "broke" her. "Abortion would now forever be a part of my life," she described. "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."
While she ultimately took home the gold with her team in the 4 x 400 meters relay, Richards-Ross won the bronze in the 300 meter race—one she had planned to win. The athlete described herself after placing third as "broken, physically and emotionally."
She has since celebrated great success in her athletic career, being named the world champion in the 400 meter the following year. However, personally, the couple's decision took a toll on their married life. Ultimately, they decided to tell each other the things they always wanted to say.
"I always harbored some resentment toward Ross. It was our mess-up, but I felt abandoned in the decision," she explained. "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."
"[Ross] explained to me that he was just as burdened by the decision as I was," Richards-Ross added. "He believed that our child in 2008 was a blessing we had rejected by always wanting to be in control."
Today, they are expecting again. "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!"