Before going for the gold, Sanya Richards-Ross had to make a deeply personal choice.
The Jamaican-American runner reveals in her new memoir, Chasing Grace: What the Quarter Mile Has Taught Me About God and Life, that just one day before flying to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where Richards-Ross won gold in the 4 × 400 meter relay, she underwent an abortion.
"The culmination of a lifetime of work was right before me," the 32-year-old athlete writes
. "In that moment, it seemed like no choice at all."
"The debate of when life begins swirled through my head, and the veil of a child out of wedlock at the prime of my career seemed unbearable," Richards-Ross continues. "What would my sponsors, my family, my church, and my fans think of me?"
One area where the decision took a toll, Richards-Ross says, is with her husband, former NFL player Aaron Ross.
"Over the phone, we didn't go into details," she explains. "As if not saying it would alleviate some of the guilt and the shame."
The couple married in 2010 and are currently expecting their first child this year.
"This is our biggest blessing yet," Ross and Richards-Ross told People
recently. "We are so excited to start a family and can't wait to begin this new adventure!"
In the book, Richards-Ross admits the decision caused her to feel some "resentment" toward her husband, and the two were not able to talk about the experience until years after.
Why Richards-Ross is speaking out now, is to reach out to young women who go through similar moments in their own lives.
"I think there are lots of young girls who experience this, especially female athletes," she writes. "I look forward to having more discussions about it and helping young women heal from it."