Athletics: Richards-Ross in best ever shape, says coach

LONDON (Reuters) - Former 400 metres world champion Sanya Richards-Ross is in the best condition of her life as she seeks a first individual Olympic gold medal at the London Games, her coach Clyde Hart said on Wednesday.

The American was in a jovial mood as she went through a light training session in east London in preparation for an assault on goal number one; the 400 metres, which gets underway on Friday.

"She is in the best (condition) of her life, without a doubt. Her physical training is at a level it has never been," Hart, who coached 400m world record holder Michael Johnson, told Reuters from the stands of the Mile End athletics track.

Richards-Ross, 27, will also run in the 200 in London but has been vocal in her main focus on securing 400 glory that many expected would come in Beijing in 2008, only for Britain's Christine Ohuruogu to steal the show.

"My main focus is still the 400 and I want to go out there and get that gold medal. I've been thinking about it for eight years not just for four years and so that's my goal," she said.

Richards-Ross has Olympic 4x400 relay gold medals from Athens and Beijing in 2004 and 2008 but has yet to win an individual gold, finishing sixth in Greece and third in China in the 400.

"The last Olympics was an eye-opener," said Hart.

"It showed her that going in as a favourite really doesn't mean a lot if you don't execute and be ready. We plan on rectifying those mistakes. I've been mad for four years and I think she's been mad for four years."

After Beijing Richards-Ross went on to become the 400 world champion in 2009 and has run the second fastest one lap this year (49.28 seconds) behind Russian Antonina Krivoshapka (49.16).

Richards-Ross, who has been involved in the Twitter campaign by U.S. athletes against sponsorship limitations at the Games, will face stiff competition in London from Botswana's world champion Amantle Montsho as well as Krivoshapka and Ohuruogu.

"I'm feeling amazing, my training is going really, really well. Everything has been phenomenal in the village and I just can't wait to get started," Richards-Ross said, having checked out the Olympic stadium on Wednesday morning.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

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