ROME - 8July05- Sanya super

Richards - two champions down, World title to go - TDK Golden League, Rome
Friday 8 July 2005
Rome Italy - Barely a week into July, U.S. 400 metres champion Sanya Richards has to be feeling pretty good.

Last Tuesday in Lausanne, Richards handily defeated Olympic champion Tonique Williams-Darling with a respectable 49.95 performance, despite stiff winds down the backstretch. Tonight in Rome, the former University of Texas standout took down another big name - reigning World champion Ana Guevara - by a whooping 8/10s of a second.

“I wanted to run a more relaxed race than last week,” Richards said. “I got a little tight at end, so coach wanted me to kind of save my kick and have a good run coming home.”

Only 20 years-old

The pair of wins, her first in international Grand Prix or Golden League competition, came on the heels of her world leading 49.28 win at the U.S. Trials last month - a marked improvement from her previous personal best of 49.89 - in a race in which two others also dipped under 50 seconds for the first time ever at the U.S. Championships. Already a World and Olympic relay gold medallist, it’s difficult to remember that the Jamaican-born Richards is barely 20 years old.

Despite her relatively light international experience and a reasonably strong field, Richards wasn’t challenged at all at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

“I was a little surprised,” Richards admitted. “I thought with Ana [Guevara], Dee Dee [Trotter] and Monique [Hennagan] in the race it would be a little closer.” But it wasn’t, with Guevara a distant second (50.62), Hennagan third (50.63) and Trotter fourth (51.40). “I’m just happy with the win.”

Lausanne follow-up

Her command performance here was an apropos follow-up to her Lausanne win.

“That meant a lot to me,” she said. “I think in order to be the best you have to beat the best consistently. I’m looking forward to racing her again and perfecting my race to continue winning.”

While some may have been surprised with her strong showing in Lausanne and now again with her Rome follow-up, Richards, and those close to her, including new coach Clyde Hart, certainly were not.

“My coach and family believed I could do it. I know my training was going well and if I put together a good race that I could win. But it’s a little overwhelming to have won so early. It just means that what I’m doing is really working, so I’m happy.”

Guru’s latest pupil

Richards began training with Hart this year, the 400 coaching guru who has trained the likes of Michael Johnson and 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner. The switch from her coach at the University of Texas, Bev Kearney, did necessitate some adjustments, but Richards said she is thoroughly pleased with the move.

“I think it was a good move for me because Clyde’s a better quarter [mile] coach, while Bev was a better sprints coach. I certainly do miss Bev.”

Back to Waco before Helsinki

Richards plans on returning to Waco, Texas to continue her preparation for the World Championships in Helsinki in August. There is nothing out of the ordinary in the training manual, she said.

“Just fine tuning the same things we’ve been doing, a lot of over-distance stuff, and very little speedwork.” She’ll return to Europe for the London IAAF Super Granc Prix on 22 July, her last race before Helsinki.

Not keen to make predictions, Richards does nonetheless think she can go significantly faster that her performance in Carson, one that made her the third fastest-ever American, and the tied her as the 15th fastest ever in the world. Membership to the sub-49 second club is next.

“I think I have it in me. I’m not going to push for it because sometimes when I press for something big it doesn’t happen so I’m just going to keep trying to win and I know the time will come.”

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF