K.P. Mohan

It will be a huge shock if she doesn’t win

She was the female ‘athlete of the year’ in 2006. But she failed to make the US team for the World championships in Osaka last year. She is back of course as the No. 1 American in the 400 metres and the overwhelming favourite for the title in the Beijing Olympics.

Welcome Sanya Richards, the best quarter-miler in the world who is ready to challenge World champion Christine Ohuruogu for the title in the Beijing Olympic Games.

Not that Ohuruogu will be a new challenger to the 23-year-old American. Just after the World championships in Osaka, at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, Richards had beaten her British rival, who, in fact managed only the third place behind Novlene Williams of Jamaica. In eight meetings so far since 2004, Richards has won all against Ohuruogu.

Ohuruogu’s case

Ohuruogu came back last year from a one-year suspension for missing dope tests. She has been ruled eligible to compete for Britain in the Olympics after her appeal against the British Olympic Association, which bans all competitors who turns in a ‘positive’ once in their careers from donning the British Olympics vest, was upheld. Is there anyone else who can challenge Richards?

She beat her American rivals quite comfortably in the Olympic trials, clocking 49.89s, as though to assert that what happened last year, when she finished fourth, was just an aberration. Mary Wineberg and Dee Dee Trotter will complete the U.S. line-up in the one-lap event in Beijing. They clocked 50.85 and 50.88 respectively at Eugene. The year’s list is jointly headed by Botswana’s Amantle Montsho with 49.83, clocked at the altitude of Addis Ababa in May, and American Allyson Felix who timed it in Doha, also in May. Felix will be running the 200 metres in Beijing.

Jamaican connection

Richards, born in Kingston, Jamaica, had left her home country at the age of 15 to settle down in the US. A singer and a dancer, she graduated from the University of Texas in 2006, the year in which she shared the Golden League jackpot for winning six out of six meetings with Asafa Powell and Jeremy Wariner.

She had finished sixth in the last Olympics. Her personal best of 48.70 at the World Cup in Athens that year made her the seventh best in the world on the all-time list (16th best performance). After Marie Jose-Perec of France and Cathy Freeman of Australia, Olympic champions in Atlanta and Sydney respectively, Richards has been the best for the distance.

It will be a huge shock if she doesn’t win in Beijing.

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