BEIJING — You could say Tianna Bartoletta’s track career has been to Helsinki and back.
Friday, however, the Elyria High graduate, was definitely in heaven.
Bartoletta, known as Tianna Madison during her Elyria days, won her second world long jump title — 10 years after taking the track world by storm with a surprise win in Helsinki — by nailing a world-leading 7.14 meters on her last jump to steal the gold from Britain’s Shara Proctor.
Proctor took silver with a mark of 7.07 meters, while Ivana Spanovic of Serbia was third at 7.01.
Bartoletta has had her share of highs and lows since that first world title. Injuries hurt her long jump career and she later turned back to sprints, winning a gold medal in the 400-meter relay at the 2012 Olympics, where she also took fourth in the open 100.
Bartoletta also tried her hand at making the Olympic bobsled team.
Last year she won the 100 and took second in the long jump at the USA Outdoor Championships and won the 60-meter title at the USA Indoor Championships. She defended her 60-meter indoor title this year.
“This was a totally different experience from 2005,” Bartoletta, who turns 30 on Sunday, told reporters. “I’m just really pleased I was able to execute in the same way and come out with the win.”
In other action, American Aries Merritt won a bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles — a victory he’ll have less than four days to celebrate. Next Tuesday, he’ll be on the operating table for a kidney transplant.
“This bronze medal means more to me than my Olympic gold,” said the 2012 Olympic champion, who also set the world record later that year.
Merritt’s bronze, won with his season-best time of 13.04 seconds, joined Bartoletta’s gold and Ashton Eaton’s first day in the decathlon as the lone reasons for the U.S. to celebrate.
Eaton ran the 400 meters in 45 seconds flat, a world decathlon record, to take the lead and also get in the hunt to break his own world record of 9,039 points.
While the decathlon goes 10 events, Merritt’s race travels across 10 hurdles. It’s an event that calls for taking things one step at a time, which is exactly what Merritt did when doctors told him his kidneys were operating at less than 15 percent and he’d need to retire.
“Pretty much, it mentally destroyed me,” Merritt said.
But instead of quitting, he pushed on, even while the disease progressed and chipped away at his fitness and his physique. Racing at 164 pounds — a full six pounds lighter than when he set the world record — Merritt ran a near-perfect race Friday night, never touching a hurdle and falling by 0.01 seconds to Hansle Parchment of Jamaica for second. Sergei Shubenkov of Russia took gold.
Merritt’s bronze brought the United States’ total to 14, a number that figured to be higher heading into the final two days of the meet.
Two-time world champion Trey Hardee withdrew three events into the decathlon with a back injury.
The U.S. also got shut out in the 200 meters.
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