RIO DE JANEIRO – Tianna Bartoletta is all sizzle and all steak, too.
Bartoletta, whose strict, protein-rich diet includes a filet mignon every day, won the gold medal in the long jump Wednesday night with a personal best of 23 feet, 6 ¼ inches.
She knows exactly how she’s going to celebrate.
“I’m going to eat a pizza,” Bartoletta said.
Teammate Brittney Reese, the defending Olympic champion, won the silver at 23-5 ½ while. Ivana Spanovic of Serbia jumped a national record of 23-2 ¾ for the bronze.
Team USA’s finish in the long jump was the best by a country since Russia swept the podium in 2004. It is also the first time the U.S. went 1-2 in the event.
The gold medal in the sand buried Bartoletta’s disappointment at not making the final on the track in the 100-meter on Saturday.
The reigning world champion, who won her first world title in the event in 2005, she posted her winning mark on her fifth attempt to overtake Reese, whose longest leap was also her fifth. Then Bartoletta had to wait to see if Reese, whose nickname is “Da Beast” and who tweeted that it was time to “Unleash Da Beast,” would do exactly that.
“I never count her out,” Bartoletta said. “I never count any jumper out. Any jumper has the ability to just have a monster jump. You get six jumps to get one good one, so everybody is kind of a threat, but on that same note, so I am I.”
While Reese had her second-best jump, it wasn’t enough.
“I thought it was around (23-7 ½) honestly, but I am going home with something so I can’t be upset,” said Reese. “I’m actually fine with it, Tianna battled for it and she won, and I can’t be a sore loser if it comes from somebody else from your country.”
Bartoletta, who won a gold medal on the world-record-setting 4x100-meter team at the London 2012 Olympic Games, will try to claim her second gold in the relay this weekend. She was fourth in the 100 in London.
“Once the competition ended, my next thought was, ‘I have to be back in the morning for the relay,’” Bartoletta said. “So my work is not yet finished, but I’m really happy to have pulled this off. I still have one more job to do for my country and then after that the celebrations can commence.”
Bartoletta came into Rio with one of the more difficult doubles – the long jump and the 100-meter, having placed second in both events at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field.
At the trials, she had to compete in both events simultaneously with the 100 heats on the same day as the long jump final.
In Rio, she raced the 100 on Friday and Saturday and did not have to worry about long jump qualifying until Monday.
Bartoletta jumped a season-best 22-9 ¼ on her second attempt, which was one centimeter behind Spanovic. She matched Spanovic on her next attempt, and moved into the lead because she had the longer second-best jump.
Reese had come into the Games with the longest jump in the world this year, 23-11 ¾ from the Olympic Trials, and wore shades during the introductions.
She had a rough start with a foul, a jump of 22-3 ½ before fouling again. Reese still qualified fifth for the final, but fouled on her fourth attempt as well.
Then she sprang to life. Reese jumped what turned out to be the silver-medal-winning mark and practically skipped out of the pit.
But Bartoletta one-upped her for the gold.
“I feel like when I jumped the seven meters that woke everybody up,” Reese said. “She’s a sprinter, so she ran down there and jumped and she got it. So you can’t be mad about that, she just out-jumped me for it. I’m going home with a silver and I can’t be more proud.
“I am really grateful. I am still battling back spasms, on and off throughout the season still from the surgery (for a torn hip labrum in 2013). Just for me to be here and still going home with something and able to stand on the podium, and I still get to see the flag go up because Tianna won, so we’ll be good.”
When Bartoletta stands on the victory podium Thursday, it will be 11 years since she won her first major title, the 2005 world championships gold medal in the long jump at age 19.
“I kind of had seven horrible seasons where I wasn’t really training and not really competing very well, so that’s where the longevity comes from,” Bartoletta said. “My body’s pretty fresh. But to win this medal after all that time and still be here and be a more mature athlete, a more serious athlete, more deliberate in my approach to the sport, more businesslike, it’s really validating for sure.”