Tianna Bartoletta is Ready to Defend her Olympic Title

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On a sunny Friday afternoon during the last weekend in February, before stay-at-home orders and facemasks and furloughs, I watched three-time gold medalist Tianna Bartoletta practice the long jump at UC Berkeley’s Edwards Stadium. The YTT-200’s focus was as sharp as the spikes on her shoes as she sprinted down the track and sprung into the air, seemingly weightless, before softly making contact with the sandpit. The key, she told me, is accelerating into the takeoff instead of slowing down to jump. “You gotta be crazy,” she says. “You gotta feel the fear and do it anyway.”

It’s a sentiment Bartoletta, who took home two gold medals from Rio in 2016 (long jump and 4×100-meter relay), has experienced before, particularly during the lows that have punctuated her successful 15-year track and field career. She won her first world championship…

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