Sanya Richards-Ross wearily opens the door to her physiotherapist's office in Zurich. An enormous diamond-studded wedding ring illuminates her left hand, but her usually bright smile is faded. The 25-year-old world champion is suffering from a flare-up of Behcet's disease — a rare condition that causes ulcers and lesions of the skin — which has disturbed her career since it was first diagnosed in 2007.
"You know this is my worst bout with it going into this season,"the Jamaica-born athlete says. "I think it's going to become a little more noticeable this year so I'll probably be wearing sleeves and stuff. I don't know if you remember but a couple seasons ago I ran in sleeves — it wasn't a fashion statement it actually was to cover the lesions on my skin.
"You know with what I do I have to strip down, so I wear a lot of skin make-up to cover it. But it's a psychological distraction, an hour before the race, to have to go and do all that work."
Paradoxically the flare-up has coincided with perhaps the greatest 12 months of her life, in which she finally won a global individual title and, in February, married her college sweetheart, the New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross. The two met at the University of Texas when Aaron noticed her at a track meet. "He went home and told his mom: 'That's the girl I want to date.'"They got together the following year and have been a couple ever since. But the stress of organising the wedding contributed to the flare-ups.
"Oh yeah, it was bad,"she says. "My husband and I had the best time, but it's so stressful having a wedding. I had a really bad flare before my wedding so I had to have full body make-up on the day. My veil also helped and I wore it all night so you wouldn't see as much. It was just annoying to have to go through that."
As an elite athlete known for doing 1,500 abdominal crunches per day, Richards-Ross should not have been a bride who needed to worry about her weight, but she prods her cheeks disparagingly. "You know my medication actually means that I retain weight."