Richards-Ross looks to lead US to gold in 4x400 at worlds

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BEIJING (AP) A gold medal could make a tough trip to Beijing a little bit better for Sanya Richards-Ross.

It's a story she's all too familiar with.

Back at the Bird's Nest seven years after a huge disappointment left her crying under the stands, the American has a chance to once again lead the 4x400-meter relay team to a victory Sunday on the final day of the world championships.

That relay win at the Beijing Olympics made her bronze medal in the 400 meters a little easier to stomach. This time, though, she didn't even get a chance to race the 400. After failing to qualify at nationals, the 2012 Olympic champion had to watch as teammate Allyson Felix won the title.

Richards-Ross will team with Felix in the relay. Felix led the 4x100 team to a silver medal on Saturday, bringing her total to 12 overall at the worlds, which is two shy of Jamaican runner Merlene Ottey's record for women. However, Felix has more gold - nine to Ottey's three.

No chance of Felix skipping the final relay event, either, no matter how tired she may be.

''It's just the tradition to close out the meet,'' Felix said. ''I'm used to doing it.''

LaShawn Merritt will guide the Americans into the men's 4x400 relay, where they are big favorites after turning in the top qualifying time. That was with Merritt sitting out to conserve his energy, too.

The 30-year-old Richards-Ross has been waiting around the hotel for two weeks for her chance to take the stage. She said after her portion of the relay - the U.S. had the top qualifying time - that she felt good, but emotionally she was ''anxious, drained.'' The day of the 400 final was especially difficult for her.

Sure, she was proud of Felix, who skipped the 200 to concentrate on the 400, just disappointed she wasn't in the field.

''I kind of cried a little bit,'' she said.

This place doesn't exactly hold the best of memories for Richards-Ross. She was the overwhelming favorite in 2008, only to fade at the finish and wind up with bronze.

''I always say if there's one race I could have back in my career, it would be the 2008 final here,'' Richards-Ross said. ''I was ready to win that race. I was really disappointed I won the bronze here.''

She rebounded, though, surging past a Russian sprinter at the end of the 4x400 race. She emphatically pumped the hand that clutched the baton.

''I can't tell you how many Americans come up to me and remember that moment,'' Richards-Ross said. ''That's a real honor.''

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