It has been a long four years for U.S. Olympic runner Sanya Richards-Ross. Expected by many to win gold in the 400-meter race in Beijing 2008, Richards-Ross instead took home the bronze medal. A year earlier, she was diagnosed with Behcet’s disease, an autoimmune illness with effects such as skin lesions and painful sores in and around the mouth. Her training was cut back before and after the 2008 Olympics to allow her to recuperate.

Fortunately, Richards-Ross learned last year that she had been misdiagnosed and had a skin disease more treatable than Behcet’s. Taking a less aggressive regimen of medication, she came to London with better health and more energy. On Aug. 5, Richards-Ross finally won gold in the 400-meter, overcoming years of disease, doubt and disappointment.

Richards-Ross, who was born in Jamaica and came to the United States when she was 12, is thrilled to represent her adopted country.

“It means a lot to me because I feel the United States has given me so many opportunities, I just can’t imagine my life if I hadn’t moved here. I’ve been given a chance to go to the University of Texas, to work with some of the best coaches, to have amazing physios, meet my husband, just so many things have happened for me in this amazing country,” she tells Uinterview in our exclusive video. “So it’s just my thrill and my pleasure to be able to give back, and to wear that USA across my chest it just means so much to me.”

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Q: What is your training schedule like to prepare for the 2012 Games? - Uinterview User

Training for the Olympics can be very intense. I’m usually on the track for about two hours, then in the weight room for another two hours. I try to do Pilates twice a week for another hour and then I try to get a thousand abs in every day, which takes another hour. So between that and eating and resting and physical therapy by massages, I feel like I have a full time job and my training is very intense. But I’m doing what I love to do so it makes it — I wouldn’t say easy, but easier.

Q: Are there times you feel overwhelmed by the rigor of your sport? - Uinterview User

There are times that it gets to be too much, for sure. Sometimes I get to practice and I’m not always in the best mood and sometimes my body doesn’t feel great, and I look at the board and my workout just seems like my coach just went crazy for five minutes while he wrote it down. And then I always just try to channel that moment of being able to represent my country or to stand on that podium or go to the Olympic Games or World Championships. That kind of gets me over the edge because I know that it’s in those moments that I get to have those other moments, so I work really hard in practice.

Q: How do you get mentally prepared for a meet? - Uinterview User

My mental preparation starts with my film study and I feel that when I’m at home and watching my films, I kind of bring myself back to that time when I had my best performances. I watch my American record race, when I won my first World Title outdoors, and my World Title race indoors and that’s how my mental preparation starts. Then when I get to the track, I just really start to fine tune and think of the plan my coach and I’ve worked on for my race strategy. I go out and say, "I’ve worked so hard for this moment, I deserve to be here and if I give my best I know I can run really well." So those are things I use as a trigger to mentally prepare for competition.

Q: Are you on any special diet to get in top shape for London? - Uinterview User

I’m big on juicing. My dad prepares this ‘Popeye’s Power’ that has spinach and carrots and beets and all this stuff I drink a lot of the times before workouts, and that kind of makes me feel super and ready to train. Unfortunately, because we travel so much we don’t always know if we’re going to get the same meals so I can’t say what my super meal is before a competition. Sometimes I’ll get grilled chicken or salmon or fish, but I always count on my ‘Popeye’s Power’ drink that my dad makes me at home. And after the Olympics, if everything goes as planned, I’m going to splurge on some McDonald’s. They always have McDonald’s there, so I can get some French Fries. I’m going to get some Vanilla Ice Cream and I’m going to live it up!

Q: What does it mean to represent the USA in the Olympics? - Uinterview User

Wearing the USA across my chest means a lot. I think it has a very unique and significant meaning for me, because actually I was born in Jamaica, so I chose to become a citizen and chose to represent the United States. It means a lot to me because I feel the United States has given me so many opportunities, I just can’t imagine my life if I hadn’t moved here. I’ve been given a chance to go to the University of Texas, to work with some of the best coaches, to have amazing physios, meet my husband, just so many things have happened for me in this amazing country and so it’s just my thrill and my pleasure to be able to give back, and to wear that USA across my chest. It just means so much to me.