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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 Sunday. “I knew I had to cross the finish line first to call myself the Olympic champion.”

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 in the final 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 to give the U.S. its first track and field gold of the Games.

“I just kept saying, ‘You can do this, you can do this,’ ” she said. “I just dug really deep, and I’m very happy.”

Defending champion Christine Ohuruogu of Britain was second in 49.70, and American DeeDee Trotter won the bronze in 49.72.

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