It's been a bit of a bumpy ride, but Tianna Madison appears to be back on course as she prepares for the U.S. Track and Field Championships that begin today and end Sunday at Drake University.
The most significant change for the 2003 Elyria High graduate is her coaching. Former U.S. Olympic women's team head coach Brooks Johnson is now Madison's coach in Orlando, Fla., where she now lives and trains.
Finding another coach was a problem since Madison parted ways with Bobby Kersee after the 2008 Olympic Trials. Kersee had coached Madison since February 2006. Before that, she was coached by Tennessee assistant Carol Gilbert.
Johnson has only coached Madison for about a month. Before that, Madison was coaching herself.
So far, things are going well.
"We've worked well together," Madison said. "Brooks has taught me about execution. I'm kind of a nerd when it comes to understanding science. He's teaching me in terms of physics. In the case of the long jump, it's f = ma (force equals mass times acceleration). You have to accelerate in order to apply more force to get off the board.
"If you teach it that way every time, you get the results. You can't argue the science."
The 73-year-old Johnson is a U.S. Track and Field Hall of Famer who has coached at the Olympic level for nearly a half-century. His first Olympian was 110-meter hurdles silver medalist Willie May in 1960, and he's coached an athlete at every Olympics since 1968. As coach of the 1984 women's team in Los Angeles he coached Evelyn Ashford and Chandra Cheeseborough.
And even though the relationship is still relatively new, Madison is the happiest she's been in quite awhile.
"There's been times the last couple of years that I've hated the sport," said Madison, 24. "I've really struggled. It's been tough to go from world champion (in 2005) to absolutely nothing. I let the basics get away from me. So many people were in my ear saying, 'You're pro now. You can't train the same. You can't do things the same.' Well, why not? The science is the same."
Madison believes she also needs to clear her mind of many of the issues that have haunted her in the past.
"Even when they announce me as a former world champion, I have to let that go," said Madison, who was a nine-time state high school champ. "I don't need all that extra pressure hanging over me."
Madison soared a career-best 22-71/4 when she won the 2005 IAAF world title in Helsinki.
"Yes, I haven't been jumping the 22 feet or 23 feet everyone has been expecting of me," Madison said, "but who cares? This is my career. I'm just trying to do each jump correctly. I could care less about the outcome or the place. I want to do a lot better (but at the same time) not care what other people have to say about my performance.
"I know that's difficult, but I know that I love the sport a lot more than I have over the last couple of years. Right now, I'm celebrating any improvement, whereas last year it was like, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm not going to make 22 or 23 (feet)."
Madison's best jump this year has been 20-101/2. That's not quite what she hit last year in Walnut, Calif., (21-4) or at the Olympics Trials where she finished fifth (21-7¼).
Madison is also set to compete in the 100 meters at the U.S. Championships. She was third in a time of 11.41 on June 6 at Rabat, Morocco. Jamaica's World and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser edged Chandra Sturrup of the Bahamas 11.13 to 11.4 to win it.
"Right now, I'm focusing on breaking down my event," Madison said. "I'm executing. I'm celebrating things that I'm correcting. I'm learning more. It's totally different. I think once I get back to the level I started at, I'll stay there for much longer because the science and education will be much more engrained. There's no reason to feel suicidal after a track meet, but I was like that and there's no reason to be like that. It's just a track meet."
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
U.S. TRACK AND FIELD
• WHERE: Drake Stadium, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa
• WHEN: Today-Sunday
• FAST FACT: Drake also hosted the 2007 NCAA Midwest Regional Outdoor Track and Field Championship and the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship.
• TV TIMES: Friday - 8-10 p.m., ESPN; Saturday - 1-2:30 p.m., ESPN; 3-4 p.m., Channel 3; Sunday - 1-2:30 p.m., ESPN; 3-4 p.m., Channel 3
• PRIZE MONEY: First - $4,000; second - $3,000; third - $2,000; fourth - $1,000; fifth - $500.
• TIANNA'S TIMETABLE: Thursday - 100 meters (first round), 7:10 p.m.; Friday - 100 meters (semifinals), 5:55 p.m.; 100 meters (final), 8:04 p.m. Saturday - long jump (final), 2 p.m.