Sanya Richards, the worlds fastest woman, slowed down long enough to marry her college sweetheart, NY Giants cornerback Aaron Ross.
AUSTIN, TEX., FEB. 26 The couple are accomplished athletes: she runs track, he plays football for the Giants.
Published: March 4, 2010
CATCHING one of the world’s fastest women is no easy task, but when Aaron Ross first glimpsed Sanya Richards, he vowed to his mother: “I’m going to get her.”
“I just saw her standing there, in her uniform, and she looked great,” said Mr. Ross, remembering the 2003 University of Texas track and field event he had been observing. “One of these days, I have to make sure I talk to that girl,” he said he told his mother, Cheryl Woods, seated beside him. “She’s fine.”
That day came a year later, and it was Ms. Richards now catching a first glimpse of Mr. Ross, who made the first move. “I walked into a school cafeteria with my sister, Shari, and I was like, ‘He’s kind of cute,’ ” said Ms. Richards, by then a sophomore and the holder of the National Collegiate Athletic Association title in the 400 meters. “Shari called him over.”
During their conversation, Ms. Richards found out that Mr. Ross — known simply as Ross around campus — was a player on the Longhorns football team, and he already knew that she excelled at running. “I was playing it real cool while she was talking to me, but deep inside, I was like ‘Yes! Yes!’ ” Mr. Ross said.
A week later, they went on a first date, each athlete scoring points with the other.
“He was a very confident guy, and I was attracted to that,” Ms. Richards, 25, recalled. “He just seemed to laugh about everything.”
It didn’t matter much to him that his date knew little about football. “She knew a lot about most everything else,” Mr. Ross, 27, said. “She was so intelligent.”
When Mr. Ross brought her home months later, his mother realized that Ms. Richards was more than a passing fancy. “He didn’t bring his previous girlfriends around as much as he did her,” said Mrs. Woods, whose image is tattooed on Mr. Ross’s right forearm.
He and Ms. Richards were now dating steadily and realizing that competitive sports was just one of the many interests they shared.
“We are very much into fashion, we enjoy bowling and we are both homebodies,” she said. “But our biggest connection is that we understand each other as athletes, we know we have to make the kind of daily sacrifices, like dieting and training, that the average person just does not understand.”
Ms. Richards joked, “Ross never tempted me to eat French fries.”
By the summer of 2004, Ms. Richards, who won five other N.C.A.A. titles during her two-year stay at Texas, left for the Olympic Games in Athens, where she won a gold medal as a member of the 4-by-400-meter relay team.
As she began traveling to compete at meets around the country or in Europe, the distances only brought the couple closer. “Our phone bills were crazy,” Ms. Richards noted.
Mr. Ross had blazed his own path to stardom as a cornerback at Texas, helping the Longhorns win the 2005 national championship.
In 2006, Ms. Richards shattered the United States record in the 400-meter dash, a record she still holds.
“Sports was never something that made us put our relationship on hold,” said Ms. Richards, who trains with Mr. Ross. “It only served to motivate us as athletes, and as a couple.”
“It was very special and unique because so much success was coming for us at the same time,” Ms. Richards said.
Their triumphs have been paired with injury: an inflammatory disorder in her case, a hamstring injury last season for him. They’ve helped each other through it. “We kept pushing each other and challenging each other because we love and respect one another,” Ms. Richards said.
“He’s the only man who could slow me down a little,” she said. “He did it by being patient and kind and always charming — by just being himself.”
The groomsmen included Giants teammates Ahmad Bradshaw, Corey Webster and Michael Johnson, along with Tarell Brown of the San Francisco 49ers, who described Mr. Ross, his friend from their days on the Longhorns, as a “very humble, hardworking guy.”
“She has an amazing spirit,” Mr. Lewis said of Ms. Richards, who was also celebrating her 25th birthday.
After seating his mother, Mr. Ross, in an ivory tuxedo, discreetly flashed a grin and peace sign at the audience, stirring chuckles.
Three flower girls dropped white rose petals down the aisle before the bride entered, wearing a sheer ivory veil that matched the snug bodice of her strapless gown. That evening, at their reception at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin, the bridegroom’s brother, James Ross, fought back tears when toasting his brother for holding on to his goals and dreams, and to Ms. Richards.
Staci Semrad contributed reporting from Austin.
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