Tianna Madison Bartoletta, a three-time Olympic champion who travels the world, can't think of a better place at this time in her life for reflection and inspiration.
"It's important for me to come home because I understand how it feels to be lost, and one of the most important keys in finding yourself is to reconnect with your roots so you can feel grounded," said Madison Bartoletta, who resides in Montgomery, Alabama. "Everything is not ideal, but knowing where your roots are and kind of getting in touch with that gives you a launching pad for bigger and better things."
Life for Madison Bartoletta has been grand on the track with a long list of accomplishments including NCAA, international and USATF titles in the 100 meters, 4x100 meters relay and long jump. She's also a two-time Olympian with three gold medals.
But Madison Bartoletta has had challenges off the track. She decided to divorce her husband John last year after what Madison Bartoletta has called an abusive marriage. During the time of her marriage, Madison Bartoletta and her parents — Robert and Jo Madison — were estranged. She was also sued by her parents for libel and slander.
The family eventually dropped the charges. The mending between Madison Bartoletta and her parents continues.
"Sometimes it takes Armageddon," she said. "It requires some hard conversations but there's a willingness on both sides to try to figure things out. Going through everything I've gone through, including my marriage, is like you learn to look at what's in front of you and react accordingly, and that's what my family is doing a good job of right now."
Which makes this week that much more important.
"I've been through so much and have gone out so far and accomplished so much," Madison Bartoletta said. "And in a lot of that time internally I've been in turmoil and lost, and it feels really good to come back to home base. As a child, home base was safe. You were good. That's where I am right now, symbolically and literally."
To the delight of Elyria schools superintendent Dr. Thomas Jama.
"There's a buzz here in (Elyria) because we're excited to see her," Jama said. "She hasn't been home for quite some time, so this is exciting."
Madison Bartoletta's return includes a private chat with Cleveland State's track team on Wednesday. On Friday, she will attend a tailgate party from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at Elyria High School and join the Elyria City School District at 6:30 p.m. for the formal dedication of Mercy Health Field at Ely Stadium.
On Saturday, Madison Bartoletta will be the special guest at a meet-and-greet reception with community members at 4:30 p.m. at Elyria High's Performing Arts Center.
"Just to be involved in stuff in my hometown is like being on the front lines," said Madison Bartoletta, who plans to compete in the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. "I'm a grassroots type of athlete. I don't like being treated like some celebrity. I'm a kid from Elyria who used the resources available to go to college and took advantage of that opportunity and leveraged that into something else."
On Sunday, Madison Bartoletta will end her visit with a crash-course sports seminar open to coaches and middle and high school students from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Westlake. Register at tbtrackstar.com.
"This crash course is based on my free e-book," Madison Bartoletta said. "They'll spend a little over three hours with me learning how to go from good to great. This will help young athletes avoid some of the pitfalls I fell into."
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