Richards likely a lock for Athens

AUSTIN -- University of Texas sophomore Sanya Richards, one of America's rising young track stars and the reigning U.S. champion in the 400 meters, scheduled a Wednesday news conference
to announce her future in the sport.

Considered a safe bet to make the U.S. Olympic team for Athens
later this summer, Richards is expected to announce whether she
will stay at Texas or turn pro.

Richards, 19, and her coach Bev Kearney were unavailable for
comment Tuesday, a team spokesman said.

In an interview with The Associated Press last week, Richards
suggested she planned to stay at Texas but left open the
possibility of leaving.

"That's my goal, to stay here and continue to contribute to the
University of Texas," she said.

But she also said the money available to top professionals in
endorsement contracts, appearances fees and prizes was attractive.

"The money's good. The money sounds great, but I don't know. My
parents and I haven't really talked about it too much," she said.
"I think the money will be there whether I take it now or in two
years, because I'm going to have my mind set on my big dreams."

Richards suffered a rare loss in her signature race last weekend
at the NCAA championships, finishing third behind Tennessee's Dee
Dee Trotter and UCLA's Monique Henderson. It was her first
collegiate loss in the 400 outdoors and it came on her home track.

"I'm going to keep fighting to be the best in the 400,"
Richards said after the race. "I don't like to lose. I'll go back
to the drawing board and I'll come back better."

The Olympic trials begin July 9 in Sacramento, Calif.

Richards also was a member of Team USA's gold medal-winning team
in the 1,600 relay at the 2003 world championships.

Last year, sprinter Allyson Felix turned pro at 17 and signed a
shoe contract with Adidas. And after breaking Jim Ryun's high
school mile record in 2001, Alan Webb spent one season at Michigan
before turning pro.