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Originally published August 5, 2012 at 9:25 PM | Page modified August 6, 2012 at 4:42 PM

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Sanya Richards-Ross captures 400 | Olympic track

Disappointment, tears and that oh-so-unsatisfying color — bronze — are all in the past for Sanya Richards-Ross. On this trip to...

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LONDON — Disappointment, tears and that oh-so-unsatisfying color — bronze — are all in the past for Sanya Richards-Ross.

On this trip to the Olympics, she closed the deal.

Four years after a late fade left her crying and wearing the Olympic bronze medal, Richards-Ross won the 400-meter gold she always thought she could.

"What I have learned is you don't win the race until you win the race," Richards-Ross said. "I knew I had to cross the finish line first to call myself the Olympic champion."

She did it.

Nearly banging elbows with runners on both sides of her — and with the defending champion making up ground on the outside — Richards-Ross got stronger, not weaker, this time over the last 100 meters.

She surged to the finish, won by about a body's length and punched her fist when she crossed the line in 49.55 seconds Sunday night to give the U.S. its first track and field gold medal of the London Olympics.

"I just kept saying, 'You can do this, you can do this,' " Richards-Ross said. "I just dug really deep and I'm very happy."

Defending champion Christine Ohuruogu of Britain finished second in 49.70 and American DeeDee Trotter, decked out in red, white and blue glitter on her face, won the bronze in 49.72.

This moment, though, belonged to Richards-Ross, whose parents relocated from her home country of Jamaica when she was 12, in part to advance what looked like a promising running career.

At the end, she wrapped herself in the American flag and went to the stands to embrace her husband, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive back Aaron Ross, who took time off from NFL training camp to travel to London.

"You finally did it, you finally did it, babe," he told his wife. "Enjoy the moment."

The world's top runner at this distance for much of the last four years, Richards-Ross has nonetheless been waiting impatiently for another shot at the individual gold she thought she would grab in 2008.

That time, the final 100 meters of her race was a disaster. Leading coming into the stretch, she fell back dramatically, and a few minutes later, Ohuruogu was clutching the gold and Richards-Ross was crying. Not this time.

"The run was phenomenal," Richards-Ross said. "It's very, very challenging to get on the Olympic stage and give your best performance ... It's a huge weight off my shoulders."

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