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Lutz Olympic gold medalist Tianna Madison returns home

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 11:50 PM
TAMPA -

Just moments before Tianna Madison lined up inside London's Olympic Stadium for the opening leg of the 4 x 100 meter race Friday, she and teammate Allyson Felix made a pact.

"Allyson and I said to each other, right before the race, 'By any means necessary, you will get this baton,'" Madison, 26, said Sunday evening, shortly after arriving at Tampa International Airport. "She even spiked me in the leg, but we kept going."

A gold medal dangling from her neck and a United States of America flag draped around both shoulders, Madison basked amid roughly 100 supporters, friends and family near the Airside F tram inside the airport.

That baton made it from Madison to Felix in a clean exchange. Then it went to Bianca Knight and finally to anchor-leg sprinter Carmelita Jeter. In the process of snatching a gold medal in that 4 x 100 event, the women also smashed a 1985 world record of 41.37 in the process with their time of 40.82.

"I knew that it was going to be fast because in Round 1, we almost broke the Olympic record," said Madison, who lives in Lutz with her husband John Bartoletta. "I just really focused on running the best 100 I could run and catching the two girls on the outside and making up some ground, and I knew if I could do that, I'd put Allyson in the perfect position to get us into the lead and that's what we did.

"But the world record, we all had this look on our face. None of us were really expecting that, but oh we are so glad that we shattered it."

It was the first time since 1992 the American women's 4 x 100 relay team finished first in that event.

Despite knowing the outcome of the race, sister-in-law Darlene Bartoletta said she and her family were glued to the TV, filled with anticipation.

"We freaked out, but of course we knew ahead of time from Twitter," she said. "We knew they won, and we knew they had a world record, but it was still a surprise. We knew it was going to happen, but to see it was hair-raising."

Although it was Madison and her team who won the medal on the track, she praised her husband for getting her prepared mentally and physically.

A three-hour dinner date in Orlando last September led to a heart-to-heart conversation.

"We talked about facing your fears and stop lying to yourself," John Bartoletta said. "We had a very, very hard talk. It was heartfelt. She talked to me openly about everything she's been through."

She traveled to Daytona from Lutz daily to train. That regimen included 2 pounds of steak, a bag of mushrooms, a bag of spinach, protein shakes, and plenty of water – a routine that lasted almost 200 consecutive days.

"And this is what happened," John Bartoletta said, referring to the gold medal. "She's an amazing woman."

The gold medal and record has been the culmination to a life full of trapdoors and drama for Madison. Her financial hardship was punctuated with a bankruptcy and foreclosure of her home. She's even moved past being molested as a child.

"It's just really good to have someone like my husband and the Bartolettas behind me who just love and support me every step of the way," the Ohio native and former University of Tennessee track star said.

Madison also finished fourth in the 100-meter finals.

While in London, the couple rented a flat away from the hoopla and even bargained with the chef of a nearby Italian restaurant to cook her meals.

Inside Darlene Bartoletta's living room Friday night, it was an atmosphere the family won't soon forget.

"When she was just standing there, I had chills from the intensity of the moment," Bartoletta said.

"I couldn't even believe it with my own eyes," her son Michael said. "I had to take it all in."

The proof – in the form of a gold medal, connected to a purple ribbon – was there Sunday.


edaniels@tampatrib.com (813) 371-1860 Twitter: @EddieDTampaTrib

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