The sprinter and long jumper with three Olympic gold medals and three world championships titles has spent as much of her life sharpening her writing skills as she has her track and field prowess. Tianna Bartoletta has equally inspired in both disciplines—and in 2021 she’ll publish her memoir, Defying Gravity, while attempting to make her third Olympic team.
During the pandemic year, Bartoletta checked in on the mental health of her large following via social media, periodically posting a simple question: “How are you?” Her followers responded on a scale of colored emoji hearts, a red broken heart indicating, “I’m in a dark place.” Bartoletta shared her status right along with everybody else and often flagged a fan’s broken heart with a comment, “Send me a message if you need an ear.”
At the beginning of 2021, Bartoletta wrote about how she lost her sponsorship with Nike after 13 years, a result of the professional chaos incurred by many pro athletes during the pandemic. Her take? Though she may be now unsponsored, she knows she isn’t unsupported.
“We miss how abundant we are in other ways because we’re viewing it through the filter of what was lost,” she wrote.
Bartoletta, 35, has a way of drawing people in with her blunt but empathetic tone. If she has feelings about any topic, from her yoga practice to racial injustice or voting, she’s not afraid to express her perspective. She shows support and encourages others—though never sugar-coating the circumstances.
“Canceled opportunities. Diminished paychecks. Strained relationships. You name it. It sucks…but it’s reality,” she wrote in December on Instagram. “So instead of focusing on all we can’t do…try plotting out all you can do within this framework. Don’t compare it to what you used to do. You aren’t as paralyzed as you feel right now. Mask up. And tell everyone else to back up. You’ve got some thriving to do.”
This profile was first published in the Winter 2021 print issue of Women’s Running as part of “Women Who Lead: Power Women of 2021” which celebrates 25 women who are reshaping the running industry for the better. You can see the full list of honorees here.