Interview: Tianna Madison

I am proud to present my first ever interview with a World Record holder and Olympic Gold medalist!

Tianna Madison is both a track and a field athlete. Her track specialties are 60m (indoors), 100m and 200m (outdoors). In 2012 she competed for Team USA at the London Olympics in the 100m Final finishing 4th with a personal record of 10.85.

She also ran the opening leg of the 2012 Olympics 4x100m Relay Final and was therefore part of the Gold medal team that broke the longstanding World Record held by East Germany in 1980 with a time of 40.82!

Alongside this she was a Long Jump specialist at the University of Tennessee and is currently ranked as the third all-time best Indoor Long Jumper and 60m sprinter for the Lady Volunteers. 

When did you start running and did you have any particular reasons for starting?

I started running in middle school when it was first offered as a team sport and because I competed in every sport. I played volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter, and track in the spring. I chose the long jump because I thought it would get me out of running, but that was not the case. Competitively, I focus on the long jump, but long jumpers are sprinters, too so I often dabbled in the sprints as well. This year, because of my increased speed, my team and I decided to focus on sprinting.

If you could run with and/or race anyone, anywhere who would it be and where?

This probably usually isn’t a tough question but I have to think long and hard about this one. I’d like to run with James Braddock, the boxer who was known as the “Cinderella Man”. Although I’m not really a jogger I’d love to listen to his stories about his comeback and his family.

Over what distance and on which surface?

I imagine that this run would take place in a residential neighborhood. Jogging on the paved streets, I’d probably only make it a block or two before I’d have to walk.

Running wise, who do you look up to and who has inspired you?

My husband has a spectacular story so he actually inspires me a lot… more than he knows. The most inspiring thing I saw at the Olympic Games was Oscar Pistorius running the 400m because he is a double amputee and he proved what you can overcome in spite of your circumstances. I’ve spent some time at the Shriners Hospital, a hospital whose mission is to provide the highest quality care to children with special healthcare needs regardless of the ability to pay. We focused a large part of a visit on the Orthopaedics unit and those children inspire me so much.

At the Games, I learned that no matter what stage you’re on, no matter where you are, it always comes down to your ability to execute. On the other side, the Olympic Games showed me that I was a part of a larger movement. While my role in that movement was in sports, the whole world was involved in a unity that was amazing to see.

What are your favorite training conditions and are they the same as your favorite racing conditions?

I train in Florida so even though there are plenty of beautiful training days there are several brutal ones. I prefer the days when the temperature is hot, mid to high 70s; the humidity tolerable, and the skies overcast so the sun isn’t beating down on me. On race day I care more about how I’m feeling than I do about the weather. Because the weather will be the same in all eight lanes I rarely waste any energy fretting about it.

What is your fondest memory of running and, conversely, your worst?

The best memory would have to come from this year’s Olympic Games. I ran the opening leg of the 4×1. I watched Allyson run her leg and I usually run back towards the start/finish line while the third leg runs so that I can watch the anchor leg run it in. This time it all happened so quickly Carmelita and I ran past each other. My husband was in the front row and he was screaming and he was frantically pointing and telling me to look at the clock, so I looked up and then my mouth dropped wide open. It took me THAT long to realize we were the new world record holders!

My worst running memory happened almost a decade ago. To make it to Collegiate Nationals we had to run in the NCAA Regional meet. The top finishers of each event would advance to the national championship. I had a pretty good chance of advancing to nationals in both the 100 and the Long Jump. The only problem is I had strep throat and had been on IV’s at the campus clinic for the week leading up to the meet. I was nationally ranked number 1 in the long jump at the time and I jumped nowhere near what I was capable of but managed to hold the lead and advance to nationals. That performance gave me a boost of confidence and so I went into the 100 believing I could use sheer will and determination to make it in that event as well. The gun went off and I focused on executing the perfect race (as coaches say if you execute the time will come). I had zoned everyone out and ran the best race I could run and I leaned at the finish line just to seal the deal. When I looked up at the clock after the race I learned that not only did I take last place but I ran half a second slower than I did in high school!

Where do you see yourself in six years?

In six years I’d like to be retired with multiple medals. With the extra free time I’d like to expand my philanthropic endeavors and I’m definitely going to be all about my husband and our family. I’d like to think that sipping espressos at local café’s in Italy are a daily routine for my husband and I, and hopefully we’ll have a toddler in tow!

I’d like to have taken Club 360 (my personal development program for young girls) global, because learning to live a life of honor, integrity, and self- respect are lessons that transcend language and cultural barriers.

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