Big year for Sanya?

Although she won all six of her Golden League races, netting her $500,000, and was world ranked no. 1 at 400m for the third year running, Sanya Richards was disappointed with her 2007 season – because illness cost her a place on the US team at 400m for the World Champs in Osaka.

She told Jim Vertuno of the Associated Press: “This is what I’ve been training for all my life, to go to Beijing as the favourite. I really want this gold medal. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I don’t get it.”

Her coach Clyde Hart, who guided Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner to Olympic titles, says: “I think she’s probably better (now) than she’s been since I’ve had her. Sanya is very much like Michael Johnson, very focused. They approach it with a very aggressive attitude. That’s what separates them from other runners.”

Jim Vertuno explained that the illness which ruined Richards’ season is known as Behcet’s syndrome, a rare disorder that causes chronic inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body.

It first erupted in March 2007, causing painful ulcers in her mouth and on her legs.

They were so bad that there were times she couldn’t talk, eat or stretch to run and she dropped out of several competitions.

She went to a series of doctors before an infectious disease specialist finally diagnosed it.

The disease and medication left her tired and it was difficult to run on consecutive days, leading her to finish only fourth in the US Champs 400m.

Her doctors can’t predict whether the disease will flare up again.

It could stay in remission forever.

She’s been symptom-free for four months and adjusted her diet and medication to help keep it under control.

“I feel great,” she said. “I think my hard work is going to pay off this year.”

She has already run 11.28 for 100m, 22.56 for 200m, 50.47 for 400m and a 49.4 relay leg.