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Long-jump slump: Ex-world champ Tianna Madison looking to find past magic at Olympic Trials

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The clock is ticking for Tianna Madison and the 2003 Elyria High graduate is feeling frustrated and frazzled.
Why? Madison, a former world champion long jumper, hasn’t been her self heading into the Olympic Trials, which begin Friday in Eugene, Ore. With the women’s long jump set to begin June 30, Madison’s miffed she isn’t doing better.
Madison finished eighth at the Nike Prefontaine Classic on June 8 with a mark of 19 feet, 9¾ inches. That followed a sixth-place finish (20-61/4) at the Adidas Track Classic on May 7.
“My meets are horrible,” Madison said last week by phone. “If I knew what the problem was, I wouldn’t have taken a year to correct it. Two years, actually.”
To put those distances in perspective, Madison jumped 20-5¾ in winning the 2003 high school state meet in Dayton.
Madison wants to be a member of the U.S. Olympic Team headed for Beijing, but she’s going to have to find a way to jump a whole lot better — and fast.
She’s seeded only 23rd out of 33 entrants with a mark of 21-8.
“I’ve been going to the meets feeling great, mentally prepared to compete,” Madison said. “I jump and see that mark on the result board and I’m shocked.”
It’s been an uphill battle since turning pro and moving to Los Angeles. But Madison believes she can turn things around.
“I just have to have faith in the Lord right now,” she said. “I’m completely at the end of myself. This is not me at all.”
Three years ago, Madison was on top of the world after long jumping a career-record 22-7¼ at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, while still in college at the University of Tennessee. She was No. 1-ranked nationally and No. 2 in the world.
She turned professional in February 2006, but hasn’t jumped nearly as well since.
Madison jumped 22-3¾ to finish second at the 2006 World Indoor championships. That was before her knee became a serious issue.
Last August, she jumped only 21-2¾ at the 2007 Worlds in Osaka, Japan, finishing 10th. Her best jump for 2007 was 21-8¼ at Madrid.
Madison’s knee wasn’t 100 percent in the months leading up to the World Championships. She was coming off right knee surgery 10 months earlier to remove loose cartilage.
She took a couple of months off after Japan, but returned to training at UCLA’s Drake Stadium on Nov. 12.
Madison’s knee is now 100 percent, which is why she is so perplexed at her level of performance. She was expecting a lot more out of herself. A whole lot more.
“I’m so much stronger and faster now,” Madison said. “This doesn’t make sense. My faith is being completely tested. This has been the hardest two years of my life, especially having to pick up to leave Tennessee.”
The 22-year-old knows that she’s still going through a tough transition in turning pro, but remains undaunted in her quest of making the Olympic team.
“Bobby (Kersee) is just as frustrated,” Madison said of her coach, who just happens to be the husband and coach of Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the retired U.S. long-jump record holder. “But we both know that it only takes one jump, one time to put it together. I do believe I have at least that. I have that.”
Mississippi’s Brittney Reese (22-9) is the top-ranked long jumper at the Trials. Texas’ Funmi Jimoh (22-8) is right behind Reese. Akiba McKinney (22-1), Grace Upshaw (21-11) and Ola Sesay (21-11) round out the top five.
McKinney and Upshaw were second and third at the 2004 Trials in Sacramento behind Marion Jones. Madison finished eighth (21-0¾) as a Tennessee freshman.
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or phheyse@aol.com.

OLYMPIC TRACK AND FIELD TRIALS

WHEN: Friday through July 6
WHERE: Hayward Field, Eugene, Ore.
TIANNA’S TIME: Women’s long jump begins Monday, June 30, at 7:05 p.m.
AT STAKE: Top three earn berths in the Olympics in Beijing, China.


 



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