Just hours after winning long jump bronze at the 2017 IAAF World Championships, American track and field star Tianna Bartoletta – a three-time Olympic gold medallist – bared her soul in an emotional social media post to reveal her personal struggles over the previous year, including the breakdown of her marriage and her decision to run away from her home in the USA to live and train in the Netherlands.
Speaking to Athlete365, the 32-year-old explains that, despite still facing an uncertain road ahead in her private life, she is determined to take everything in her stride to compete to the best of her ability on the track…
The hardest part is right now, because of how everything is dragging out. There’s no closure; it’s like a cloud hovering over me every day. I assumed the hardest part was last year – leaving home and getting through the season. It’s still a learning process for me. I had to re-adjust my goals for the season and be more realistic because I’m not superwoman. I can’t keep producing these performances under such circumstances.
Losing control of your identity
I was in a relationship where my whole identity was defined by my partner. That meant I was susceptible to abuse on many different levels. When you give up control of your own narrative and identity, someone can tell you anything and subject you to all sorts of treatment and you accept it because you no longer know who you are without that person. That’s where I found myself trapped for years.
Honesty is the best policy
The first thing I had to do was to be honest about what was going on. I was so busy trying to be strong and put on a strong facade that it was actually killing me. The energy that I could have used elsewhere was being used to hold things together. It’s also important to be honest with other people. You have to admit you’re in a bad place and that you need help. If there’s no one else you can trust, blog about it and share your story with others so you can find other forms of support. You’re not going to be able to do it by yourself.
Helping young athletes thrive
I released my e-book last season called Why You’re Not a Track Star. I also host a website full of resources to help people figure out what they might be doing wrong in their own track careers. I think young athletes need a little more mentoring and guidance. I used my seven years of relative mediocrity as an example to help identify some of the reasons they might be underperforming themselves. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback, and sharing all the crazy and horrible moments I’ve experienced in this sport to help others avoid going through something similar makes me feel a lot better about things.
I fully plan to keep on writing, and I want to set up a mentor programme for young women too. It’s something that’s very close to my heart. I want to encourage and inspire the future generation of female athletes, because I didn’t really have that when I first entered this sport.