ELYRIA — The 100-meter dash and 4x100 relay events that Tianna Madison will compete in at the Olympics are frenzied, brief competitions often decided in the blink of an eye.
But the journey from a sidewalk outside her family’s Elyria home where Madison sprinted to the starting blocks in London for Team USA later this month was an agonizing marathon that Madison nearly quit.
“This was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The last several years have been disappointing to say the least and I quietly accepted that my career may be over,” Madison wrote in an email read Wednesday by Mayor Holly Brinda at the Tianna Madison Day celebration in Ely Square.
Madison credited her new husband, John Bartoletta, with inspiring her with a tough love message that she was squandering her talent and needed to rededicate herself.
“Believe me, when you take the time to do everything the right way, to do that extra rep, go that extra mile, do the work, never cut corners and never cheat yourself, there are no limits to what you can do,” Madison wrote from London where she is preparing for the games. “I am now a woman of integrity, honor and self-respect who gives credit when it’s earned, speaks up when it’s not and stands up for herself and what she believes in.”
Madison, 26, recalled not having spikes for her first sprint at Elyria High School and accidentally crossing into a competitor’s lane, but she would go on to a record-breaking career at the school before graduating in 2003.
Madison’s parents, Jo Ann and Robert Madison — both former high school track and field athletes who have retained the lean look from their competitive days — recognized she had the chance to be special even before she began competing in the seventh grade.
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Madison had the smooth and effortless gait of an athlete as a child, and her parents gave her tips on her running techniques while keeping practice fun rather than a chore. The Madisons both work full-time, but they made time over the last 12 years to travel the nation with their daughter to competitions.
They credited their daughter’s “amazing” work ethic, intense focus and determination for her success, but also recognized their extended family. About 40 Madison relatives were on hand for Wednesday’s celebration, and Jo Ann Madison saluted them and community members, saying they were a “lifeline” for her daughter.
“She had some down years, but she never gave up. She persevered. She stuck with it,” Jo Ann Madison said. “And you know what else? You persevered. You stuck with us.”
Tianna Madison’s coaches also paid tribute. Bob Slager, Elyria High track coach from 1958 to 1980, credited Title IX, the 1972 equal rights law that forced schools to stop treating female athletes like second-class citizens, for helping Madison. Slager also recalled Madison’s grit including performing during a torrential, windswept downpour at an Amherst competition that led to her team’s 2003 state championship.
While the rally was designed to inspire Madison, she also offered inspiration and a challenge.
“Do the hard things. Do the right thing. Do the work,” she wrote. “There are amazing things ahead.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.