By Christina Shanahan
Updated Aug 02, 2016 @ 6:30 pm
Credit: Kyleen James

Track and field star Sanya Richards-Ross took home a gold medal for the 400-meter race in the 2012 Summer Olympics (not to mention meddling in 2008 and 2004.) Now, the pro athlete is heading to Rio to kick off the 2016 games in a brand new capacity: NBC commentator. We sat down with the athlete to hear what's next for her career and what we can expect from her new role.

How did you make the decision to transition from competitor to commentator?

I started this season wanting to make it to Rio to compete, but I had my third toe surgery in November and couldn’t start training until January. It was going really well until I pulled my hamstring in June and it just made it impossible to make the team. I felt like the storybook ending for my career would have been to go to Rio and to get another gold medal. As I was coming around the final curve in the 400 at the trials, I knew I wasn’t able to finish the race because my hamstring just wouldn’t allow me to sprint. I remember hanging my head down on the curb and this woman screams out to me, "We love you Sanya!" and for a moment it snapped me into reality, and as I was jogging on the home stretch all the fans stood on their feet and it was like, "Wow, this is my storybook ending."

How did you react when NBC approached you about commentating?

Two days later NBC reached out to me to start doing commentating so I did the final two days of the Olympic trials and really enjoyed it. So hey, I’m still going to Rio, maybe not the way I had imagined, but I’ve always wanted to go into hosting and TV after track and field anyway, so to be able to get my start at the Olympics is a dream come true. I’m living in a really cool space right now. It’s a transitional period. I’ve been running since I was seven, so after 24 years of running, I'm preparing my mind to move on, but it’s still hard. When I’m in Rio and I’m watching the 400 you know it’s going to be a little bit tough for me.

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What else are you looking forward to working on now that you aren't training?

I have a foundation called the Gold Standard Foundation. I’m really trying to focus energy on giving back to the community. I want to help athletes get to the Olympics so I want to help a couple of Olympic hopefuls going into 2020 to live their dream. In the sport, most athletes don’t make a lot of money, especially if you’re not one of the best in the world who has lots of partners. A lot of Olympic athletes have jobs on the side.

How has your approach to working out changed?

I’m actually excited to start developing some new initiatives in the health and wellness and fitness space to take average women on a fitness journey. My whole life I’ve trained and I remember women asking me, "Oh my god what do you do for your body?" It’s really a by-product of my training, so I never really worked out for the sake of looking and feeling great. Recently I had the realization that I don’t have to train anymore. I can work out like a regular person. I don’t have to go to the track five days a week and do a thousand sit-ups. I might want to try yoga or Zumba or cycling. I did a thousand sit-ups every day for five days a week for as long as I can remember and I don’t want to do that anymore. If I feel like treating myself to a slice of 99-cent pizza from the corner restaurant when I’m in New York, I’m going to go for it.