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Sanya Richards-Ross slows down a bit at 2023 Disney Dreamers Academy

2023 Disney Dreamers Academy

Olympic track and field champion and reality TV star Sanya Richards-Ross finished her very first 5K during last year’s Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend at an event called runDisney, which was held in November.

She was among thousands of runners who completed the first event of that weekend that includes the 10K, half marathon and Two-Course Challenge (10K and half marathon) at Walt Disney World Resort.

Richards-Ross, who won four gold medals in the 400-meter and 4×400-meter relay at three Olympic Games in 2004, 2008 and 2012, remains one of track and field’s most decorated female athletes.

Since her retirement in 2016, she has gone on to become a track and field TV analyst and reality television personality. She is currently starring in the hit reality show “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

I was able to catch up with Richards-Ross at the 2023 Disney Dreamers Academy, where she afforded journalists from all over the country a chance to ask questions about her esteemed career and her participation in the event.

The Disney Dreamers Academy is an educational mentoring program hosted by Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The Academy selects 100 students from around the country each year to participate in the four-day program aimed at broadening career awareness and creating exclusive opportunities for Black students and teens from underrepresented communities across America.

The Kingston, Jamaica, native started running while she was still learning her times tables. “I was 7-years-old in Kingston when I started track, and when I was nine, I told my mom that I would be an Olympic champion.”

She praised the Disney initiative for its efforts to get folks inspired to run. “runDisney has been great for me, as I was trying to figure out new ways to incorporate running. I’m also excited to inspire other people.”

With all of her Olympic wins, Richards-Ross wasn’t just running for herself. “My mom was excited, and it was a dream realized—to be able to stand on the podium to represent my family and my country. It was just everything.

“I’m retired now and never thought I would run beyond the 400 meter.”

As it concerns Blacks getting more into running, it has its benefits.

“I feel that Black people have always incorporated running, but I feel that Black women, for a lot of reasons, shy away from running,” Richards-Ross said.

She added sage advice: “We are running our households and running our businesses. It is a great way to become mentally and physically well.”

And, finally, she encouraged young track stars running the lanes in high school:

“I would say that anything is possible. Some young folks say, ‘next year I will do this.’ No, I say do it now. If you are really passionate about it, put in the work now. Don’t see it as a sacrifice, see it as an investment in your future,”

She said, “There as so many resources for young people to help them figure out what it takes to be great.”

As running enthusiasm grows everywhere as people are more prone to elect to exercise outdoors, runDisney is an ideal way to mix fun and fitness while enjoying a Disney vacation.

The runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend will be held April 13-16. These races, which include runners of all fitness levels, provide the opportunity to run through Disney theme parks, experience world-class entertainment, and earn unique Disney medals.

For more information or to register for a race, runners can visit

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago ( or email: [email protected].

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