Four-time Olympic gold medalist in track and field Sanya Richards-Ross recently penned a memoir. In it she revealed that she had an abortion right before the 2008 Olympics. The experience left her feeling loss and grief. But after a moment when she experienced God for herself in Bejing, she began the healing process. Now she says God restores, and through her book hopes to help other women who’ve suffered loss because of abortion.
‘The Toughest Time of My Life’
Just before the 2008 Olympics in Bejing, Sanya Richards-Ross found out that she was pregnant. She was at the top of her game and was favored to win gold that year. She didn’t see a way to have a baby during the height of her career and chose to have an abortion. In her new book, Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life, Sanya opens up about what she called the toughest time of her life.
In an interview with Newsworthy with Norsworthy, Sanya said she wasn’t sure she wanted to include the abortion in her book at first. “I literally prayed about that for almost two years because it’s something that is really private. A lot of women don’t talk about it.” Sanya felt like she’d been chasing something her entire life, whether that was gold medals or the best version of herself.
“Ultimately what I learned was, while I was chasing all these things, what really kept me going was God’s grace.” She decided to add the story of her abortion because “I felt like if I didn’t share the moment of my life where I did feel God’s grace the most I felt like it would’ve been disingenuous to my journey.” If it wasn’t for God’s grace, she wouldn’t have been able to recognize that the decision of her abortion didn’t define her. “I am the person I’m striving to be,” she said, “I have to work on it every single day.”
Sanya felt that if she won her race in the 2008 Bejing Olympics it would take her shame away. She’d just had the abortion and was on the brink of a breakdown. “But then,” she said, “there was another part of me that was like, ‘I don’t deserve this victory.’”
Her experience with God’s presence came as she was getting off of a bus in Bejing just before the race. “I felt literally, emotionally, physically lost. God wrapped His arms around me … He just hugged me and told me He loved me and I was going to be okay.” It was then that she said she felt a peace that passes all understanding. “All of a sudden, I just felt like, Oh my God — God has already forgiven me. Now I’ve got to forgive myself.” It didn’t happen overnight for Sanya, but “it was the beginning of recovery for me.”
She spent time between the Bejing races with her family, talking to her parents and praying. She returned to the last race revived and energized. “I had an amazing experience running from behind and beating Team Russia, so I’m grateful for that.” She received a bronze medal for her individual race but won gold in her team’s relay. She went on to win Olympic gold in 2012 in the 400-meter race.
‘To Glorify God’
While she worried about how people would receive her story, “Ultimately, I did it to glorify God. To tell people that ‘You can come back from any decision no matter how hard it is to make or no matter what you thought about it in the past. You can still have God along with you along the journey.’”
Sanya is continuing to heal from her abortion. She is now looking forward to the birth of her second child. Although she still tears up about her experience, she has a message for other post-abortive women: “God restores!” Every time she tells her story she heals a little bit more, she said. “Healing means ultimately understanding that God has forgiven you. I think when you do that, then it really helps you to process that, ‘Look, God doesn’t love the way I love, you know, He loves me unconditionally and we all make mistakes.’” (For more from the author of “‘God Restores’: Olympic Gold Medalist Who Grieves After an Abortion Wants to Help Other Post-Abortive Women” please click HERE)