RIO DE JANEIRO — How to celebrate winning a second Olympic gold medal is a personal choice.
What’s the best way to enjoy the payoff for all the hard work, intense training and sacrifice?
Elyria’s Tianna Bartoletta didn’t even have to think about it Wednesday night after winning the gold medal in the long jump.
“I’m going to eat a pizza,” Bartoletta said.
Bartoletta, who won world long jump championships 10 years apart (in 2005 and 2015), came to Rio de Janeiro hoping to medal in the 100 meters and the long jump. The 100 didn’t go well, but the long jump did.
Bartoletta, an Elyria High graduate who was known as Tianna Madison when she won nine state track titles and delivered the state team championship to the Pioneers as a senior, jumped a personal-best 7.17 meters on her fifth of six attempts.
Fellow American Brittney Reese, the defending Olympic champion, had one last shot to pass her but came two centimeters short.
It was a dramatic competition.
Reese, who was attempting to become the first woman to repeat as Olympic long jump champion, overtook Bartoletta before Bartoletta’s big jump. And Reese drew three straight red flags for stepping over the board on her jumps. Then she came through with back-to-back jumps of 7.09 and 7.15 meters.
Bartoletta’s win kicked off a whirlwind run of medals for the United States on the night. So, by all rights, she should get to name it.
Fittingly, the newly crowned Olympic long jump champion went with “Awesome Hour.”
In a span of about 60 minutes, U.S. athletes hauled in a bevy of medals. Besides Bartoletta and Reese going 1-2 in the long jump, Tori Bowie captured a bronze in the 200 and Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin swept the medals in the 100-meter hurdles — a feat that’s never been accomplished in that event.
A banner evening, for sure. The nation entered the night with 13 medals and left the track with 19 — five gold, seven silver, seven bronze.
“It was an awesome hour,” said Bartoletta, who won her first gold medal in 2012 in London as a member of the 4x100 relay. She’ll compete in that event later in the week.
She started things off by unseating Reese. Moments later, Bowie won her second medal in Rio by taking bronze in the 200 meters. Not long after that, the hurdlers made history. This was the seventh medals sweep by the U.S. track team in the Olympics and the 23rd for U.S. women in the history of the Summer Games.
And, yes, they realized what their fellow Americans were up to. Ali watched Bowie, her suitemate in Rio, bring home another medal as the hurdler waited to take the track.
That fired Ali up. And then her hurdles teammates did the same thing.
“They smiled at me and were like, ‘It’s time. Do your part,’” Ali said. “I need to go out there and do my part. For Team USA, I knew it would be a great thing.”
How about this for an early birthday present: About an hour after the race Rollins turned 25.
“I tried to feed off all the positive energy from Team USA,” Rollins said. “We were able to come out here and fulfill our dreams. It was an amazing opportunity. I was trying to enjoy each and every moment. I’m just happy to share the moment with Kristi and Nia.”
And to think, the evening got off on the wrong foot when Justin Gatlin surprisingly went out in the semifinals of the 200.
There went a good shot at an Olympic medal. There went another showdown with Usain Bolt.
An ankle injury hampered the 34-year-old Gatlin, who won a silver medal Sunday in the 100.
“For me, it has been an honor to be able to come out here,” Gatlin said. “At the end of the day, seeing all of these young guys and young ladies out here doing a great job, it’s an honor to be able to be a part of the team and run for my country.”
Earlier in the day, Evan Jager earned silver in the 3,000-meter steeplechase — America’s first medal in that event since 1984. A hint of things to come.
“Every single time I saw someone on the (medal) stand, I tried not to get emotional,” Castlin said. “I was like, ‘I could get on the stand.’ It always feels good to see your teammates doing well.
“We’re from all different states and universities. It feels good to come out and do a great job.”
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