Sanya Richards-Ross

Former Longhorn track star Sanya Richards-Ross is out to prove she is more than just athletics; she is a jack (or in this case, Jill) of all trades.

“I don’t want to only be known as Sanya the track star,” Richards-Ross states at the very beginning of the first episode of her new reality show. “I want to be a fashionista, business name it, I want to do it.”

The pilot for “Sanya’s Glam and Gold” premiered last week and as one might expect from the title, depicted the expanded life the four-time Olympic gold medal sprinter leads off the track: she is the industrious wife of fellow star athlete and former Longhorn, New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross and a businesswoman and co-owner of a hair salon located in Austin, Texas.

In the first episode, we are introduced to her family and bedrock of her support system, “Team S.R.R.”: her father and manager Archie, her mother, who doubles as her agent, sister and business partner Shari, with whom she co-owns her salon and her cousin, publicist and stylist Yolande.

The pilot serves as the neat exposition in which we meet all the characters and start to see how the personalities and relationships make up Richards-Ross’ world. Husband Ross is ready to start a family, but Richards-Ross is more interested in training for the next Games and expanding her business before focusing on the next phase of her life.

Shari is Richards-Ross’ headstrong sibling rival and though the two are clearly close, it’s likely that complications in the relationship and differences of opinion in business will be a running plot throughout the show.

Viewers will likely become fond of Archie, who often has a sage, Jamaican accented word of advice for his daughter, and of Ross, whose calm disposition clearly helps keep Richards-Ross grounded.


Though being fellow professional athletes and obviously considered an equal by one another, the show will probably feature some friendly competitiveness between the two, making for an interesting twist in the husband-and-wife dynamic, who have been together since their freshman year at the University of Texas.

The close knit, family bonds portrayed in the show, combined with watching Richards-Ross’ multifaceted, but positive relationship dynamic with her husband will appeal to families, young women and Richards-Ross fans alike.

Students from UT's College of Communication put up their horns and scream after college dean Rodrick Hart announced they were official graduates. 

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Under the burnt orange glow of the UT Tower, thousands took their seat as students. They stood up as UT alumni at the University’s 130th commencement Saturday.

UT officials estimate 25,000 people came to see the 8,358 students from the Class of 2013 graduate. Sanya Richards-Ross, former UT student and Olympic gold medalist, delivered the keynote address at the ceremony, which UT officials have been planning for all year.

The class’ graduation rate, a report UT officials consider crucial, was not available by press time. UT is leading an effort to increase its four-year graduation rates, which currently stand at 52 percent, to 70 percent by 2016.

Attendees also faced new security standards and were unable to take any bags larges than 12 inches into the ceremony, a precautionary measure UT adopted after the Boston bombings.

Richards-Ross told the crowd about the successes and failures she had experienced in her running career. She was diagnosed with a rare disease that gave her mouth ulcers, which she said made it difficult for her to run. 

Richards-Ross said she pushed through this obstacle to do what she loved and urged graduates to do the same.

“In order to achieve greatness, you will experience failure. It’s the bitter ingredient in the recipe for success,” she said. “Without trying and failing, you never get the opportunity to stand in the face of your disappointments, your insecurities or your arrogance, your pride, and say ‘I’m stronger.’”

UT President William Powers Jr opened the ceremony and conferred degrees at the end. He said this year’s graduates came from 66 countries, 48 states and 158 Texas counties.

“That’s more than 8,000 unique paths leading here to the Main Mall, it’s a big night,” Powers said. “Size and diversity are among our greatest strengths and throughout history we’ve welcomed students seeking knowledge, expertise, inspiration and opportunity.”

Rod Caspers, director of University Events, said his office began physically setting up for graduation in April. Hundreds of people are brought in to replant flowers, paint the streets and set up chairs, among other tasks.

There are six immediate staffers in his office and more are brought in to help with graduation. Many of UT’s events are volunteer-based, he said. About 65 people signed up to volunteer at graduation.

Caspers said people could watch the ceremony in front of the UT Tower or in any of the nine indoor viewing locations across campus, including the Student Activity Center and Hogg Memorial Auditorium. Many go there to avoid the heat, he said.

“It’s kind of like we’re inviting family and friends to our house. You don’t invite family and friends if you don’t have enough food,” Caspers said. “I don’t want people to have a bad experience because we didn’t plan for it.

UT officials said last year 52 percent of 6,679 first-time freshman who came to UT in 2008 graduated in four years; 324 were dismissed; 871 dropped out and 2,000 continued onto a fifth year. Officials said final numbers would be available in the fall.

Event personnel checked bags at all entrances to the weekend’s graduation ceremonies. UT spokeswoman Tara Doolittle said the University prohibited bags larger than 12 inches to be brought into the ceremonies and all other bags would be checked. She said UT worked to inform graduates of the change.

Chemical engineering graduate Rebekah Scheuerle said she appreciated the opportunity to work in a research lab during her time at UT and network with the school’s most talented students. 

Philosophy graduate Paulina Sosa said she felt the social experience of studying on campus and interacting with various student communities, studying abroad in Italy and being involved in UT’s entrepreneurship program have changed her life.

“This is the time to really show your biggest supporters, your family, friends and mentors just how much they have impacted you over the years,” Sosa said. “You get to share this victory with the people that believed in you along the way. It's a joyous time that all of us graduates have looked forward to since the beginning.”

Contact Christine Ayala or follow her on Twitter @christineayala. Additional reporting by staff writer Jody Serrano.

Sanya Richards-Ross, four-time Olympic gold medalist and UT alumna, will serve as the Commencement Speaker for the graduating class of 2013. Richards-Ross will speak on May 18. Photo courtesy of Markus Schreiber.

She stood on the podium at the London Olympics this summer, a gold medal around her neck, and now she will speak at UT’s spring commencement.

Sanya Richards-Ross, a UT alumna who won gold medals in the women’s 400-meter dash and the 4x400-meter relay at the 2012 London Olympics, will deliver the commencement address at the 130th Spring Commencement in May. Richards-Ross graduated from the McCombs School of Business in 2006.

Student Government president Thor Lund, who selected the speaker with Michael Morton, president of the Senate of College Councils, and Michael Redding, president of the Graduate Student Assembly, said Richards-Ross’ recent Olympic win is what made her an obvious choice.

“We wanted someone who shows that UT is a prestigious place,” Lund said. “[Richards-Ross] is a decorated Olympian — she represented our school and our country well in front of people from all over the world.”

In a statement, Richards-Ross said she was excited to speak at UT because the school still holds special meaning for her. 

“The honor of being the keynote speaker at the UT commencement is one of the biggest honors of my career, and being chosen by the students makes it one of the most meaningful,” she said. “The University of Texas, its students, faculty and staff all hold a very near and dear place in my heart and always will.”

Richards-Ross has a total of five Olympic medals, including four golds. As a freshman on the women’s track and field team, she was the NCAA 400-meter champion. Richards-Ross’ college track coach, Bev Kearney, resigned in January after UT began termination procedures when it was revealed that she had a relationship with a former student-athlete roughly 10 years ago.

Richards-Ross has also engaged in philanthropic work globally. In 2007, she created the Fast Track Program, a charity focusing on tutoring Jamaican youth in literacy and mathematics and promoting an “active and healthy lifestyle through sports,” among other objectives. Richards-Ross was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to the United States when she was 12 years old. 

Electrical engineering sophomore Marina Dultra said she was excited to hear Richards-Ross speak because of her status as a UT alumna.

“I don’t know what she’ll be like as a speaker, but she’ll know what we’ve all gone through,” Dultra said. “She’s relatable. That’s pretty cool.”

Published on February 20, 2013 as "Gold medal Olympian to give speech to graduates".

Sanya Richards-Ross speaks to the Longhorn Network about her upcoming trip to the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

When it comes to the Olympics, Sanya Richards-Ross knows exactly what to do — after all, her trip to London in two weeks will be her third time competing in the Olympic Games. But with all her accomplishments and hardware, Richards-Ross has yet to fulfill one dream that she has had since the beginning, bringing home an individual Olympic gold medal.

“The individual gold is the reason I’ve stayed in this sport,” Richards-Ross said. “To be able to have an individual gold medal, I don’t know if I will be able to describe it, it will be my longtime dream come true. It will be the ultimate for me for what I’ve been working on for 20 years now since I was seven.”

In London, Richards-Ross will compete individually in the 200-meter and 400-meter events. She also qualified to participate in the 4x400 meter relay.

In 2004, at her first Olympic Games in Athens, Richards-Ross came away with her first Olympic medal — a gold medal in the 4x400 meter relay. She then she came home from the 2008 Beijing Olympics with two medals around her neck – one team gold medal in the 4x400 meter relay and a bronze medal in the 400-meter individual event.

Although she has been the favorite in the 400-meter dash since the 2004 Olympic Games, unfortunate circumstances have prevented her from claiming individual gold.

Richards-Ross failed to qualify for the 400-meter dash in 2004, coming in fourth at the Olympic trials due to illness. In 2008, Richards-Ross went to Beijing as the fastest finals qualifier and once again the favorite, but after coming out of the starting blocks too fast, took third.

“After 2008, I was so disappointed because I thought it was a huge missed opportunity,” Richards-Ross said. “Though I’ve had some tough times with injury and illness, the one thing that kept me going was that I wanted to get back to this point. To be able to have an individual gold medal.”

Now she’s back and is once again the one to watch for in women’s track and field. However, she’s added one more thing to her resume. After qualifying for the 400-meter dash with a first place finish, Richards-Ross decided to attempt the 200-meter dash. After three days of preparation, she qualified for the 200-meter dash with a third place finish.

“When the season started, I was focused on the 400,” Richards-Ross said. “Once that was over, I had about three days to recover … and it turned out to be a phenomenal race. It was really tough to make the team in the 200. I’m still solely focused on the 400, the 200 is icing on the cake.”

With all the knowledge she has gained from her past experiences, Richards-Ross is approaching the trip to London with a sense of calm and increased patience — she plans to enjoy herself. She believes that becoming too tense in the past has limited her accomplishments.

“I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to go out there and perform at a very high level … This year I worked very hard to stay disciplined,” she said of her shortcomings in Beijing. “I just feel so excited! I feel that I have so many great experiences that I can pull from and so I really hope to go out there an make this my best one ever.”

She has not decided what she will do after London. Thanks to her recent good health and success, a trip to the 2016 games is not unobtainable.

“I am kind of on the fence about it,” Richards-Ross said. “A couple of years ago I probably would have thought [the 2012 Olympics] would be my last … but the way I am feeling now, I feel that I could potentially do another one. It all depends but I am not going in thinking that, it would be too much pressure. We will see where the future takes me.”

Brendan Hansen kneels as he celebrates his win in the men's 100-meter breaststroke final at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Although the 2012 United States Olympic Trials are still in full swing, many Longhorns have already qualified to make the trip to London in three different sports.

In diving, former Longhorn Troy Dumais qualified for his fourth Olympic Games last week in Federal Way, Washington in two events. Dumais and his partner Kristian Ipsen from Stanford took first in the men’s 3-meter synchronized springboard event to qualify. On the last day of the diving trials, Dumais finished second in the individual 3-meter springboard to earn his spot on Team USA.

In Eugene, Ore. at the track and field trials, Sanya Richards-Ross has qualified for her third Olympic Games in two events, the 200- and 400-meter races. This is the first time in her career that she has qualified for two different events. Richards-Ross won gold in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008 for her part in the 4x400 meter relay. She also took home bronze in Beijing in the 400-meter individual event.

Richards-Ross will be joined in London by Trey Hardee in the decathlon and Michelle Carter in shot put. This will be Hardee’s second trip to the Olympics after finishing fourth in the decathlon in 2008. Carter has also qualified for her second career Olympics. She finished fifteenth in Beijing in shot put.

Marquise Goodwin, a starter on the Longhorns’ football team, finished first place in the men’s long jump event with a jump of 8.33 meters, a personal best to qualify for the Olympic team.

Several Longhorns have already qualified for Team USA in the pool, with several more attempting to make the team by the time trials end on July 2.

Former Longhorn Ricky Berens qualified for his second Olympics in the 400- and 800-meter freestyle relays. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Berens won gold in the 800-meter freestyle relay along with Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Peter Vanderkaay. Berens swam the third leg for the record-setting team. Berens came in third in his final heat on the 200-meter freestyle, missing the qualifying mark by just 0.81 seconds.

Brendan Hansen qualified for the 100-meter breaststroke with a second-place finish ahead of Longhorn Aquatics teammate Eric Shanteau, who also qualified for the Olympics. This will be Hansen’s second trip to the Summer Games. Hansen has four medals to his name, including a gold for his participation on the 800-meter freestyle relay with Berens.

Kathleen Hersey, who competed for the Longhorns for two years before turning professional with Longhorn Aquatics, placed second in the 200-meter butterfly to qualify for her second Olympic Games. Hersey narrowly missed qualifying in the 100-meter butterfly event by finishing in third place.

Jimmy Feigen is the new Olympian on the swim team for the Longhorns. Feigen qualified for the relay team with a fourth-place finish in the 100-meter freestyle event and will be attempting to qualify for 50-meter race as well.

Sanya Richards-Ross leads the way in the womenÂ’s 400-meter preliminary at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Former Longhorn runner and five-time NCAA Champion Sanya Richards-Ross is attempting to qualify for her third Olympics and redeem herself from what she considers a subpar performance in the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.

“I wanted to win for my country, my sponsors and myself,” said Richards-Ross. “I got so caught up in everything around the Olympic Games and what it would mean for my career to be an Olympic champion ... I made the emotions and circumstances get the better of me.”
Those emotions and circumstances still resulted in a bronze medal in the 400-meter race for Richards-Ross. Currently trying to qualify for both the 200- and 400-meter races, Sanya said she believes she is more mentally prepared to deal with the pressures of participating in the Olympics.

“I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s something that I’ve actually had to work on, and I have learned through life experiences more how to deal with it,” Richards-Ross said.

Despite winning gold with Team USA in the 4x400-meter relay in Beijing, Richards-Ross didn’t win the race that mattered to her the most.

“I felt like it was a real missed opportunity. I won every single race that season and won every single race after that,” Richards-Ross said. “I was a little bitter about it and sour about it, but starting maybe in 2009, when I started competing again, it became pure motivation.”

That motivation drove her to win both the IAAF World Athlete of the Year and the Jesse Owens Award in 2009. Earning 11 All-American honors during her time at the University of Texas from 2003-04, Richards-Ross remains one of the best runners in the world.

She also credits her training to her ability to remain focused and deal with the various pressures in preparation for the 2012 games.

“I’m lucky, because I train in Waco, so there’s not much to do there but eat, sleep and train,” Richards-Ross said. “It’s a quiet place. There’s nobody there but myself, my coaches.”

Richards-Ross and her coaches have had to intensify training to help her reach her goal of making both the 200- and 400-meter teams.

“I’ve been training really, really hard. I know the speed is there, I know my endurance is there, so it’s just putting those two together in the 200,” Richards-Ross said. “I mean, it’s a no-brainer for me. The 400 comes first, so it’s really just icing on the cake for me.”