Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Gold medal sprinter teaches girls winning habits

By Wynn Westmoreland, for CNN
September 7, 2012 -- Updated 1500 GMT (2300 HKT)
Olympic Gold medal winner, Tianna Madison, is now helping young women gain crucial skills.
Olympic Gold medal winner, Tianna Madison, is now helping young women gain crucial skills.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Olympic gold medalist Tianna Madison helps young women develop personal strength
  • Through her program, Club 360, she teaches girls to live with self-respect and integrity
  • As a world record holder and Olympic champion, she uses her own experience as an inspiration

Editor's note: We want to hear from you -- what woman inspires you, and why? She could be another athlete, or a writer, an activist, or even your mom. Leave your suggestions, stories and memories in the comments section below and we'll feature the best on CNN.com.

(CNN) -- In the 4x100 sprint relay, it is the handoffs that decide the winner. Speed is important, but without a top-notch changeover, you're out. The maneuver is a perfectly orchestrated move performed in a split second without looking.

It's all about teamwork, something Tianna Madison knows a thing or two about. She was part of the U.S. team that won gold in the relay at the London Olympics, shattering the world record in the process.

Everyone came to see Usain Bolt, and he did not disappoint. The 25-year-old Jamaican won three gold medals at the London Olympics; two individually (100m and 200m) and one in a team event (pictured above -- the men's 4 x 100m relay). Everyone came to see Usain Bolt, and he did not disappoint. The 25-year-old Jamaican won three gold medals at the London Olympics; two individually (100m and 200m) and one in a team event (pictured above -- the men's 4 x 100m relay).
Lightning Bolt strikes thrice
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
London 2012: Top-10 sporting moments London 2012: Top-10 sporting moments
The U.S. men's basketball team celebrates winning the gold medal after defeating Spain on the final day of the London 2012 Olympics on Sunday, August 12. The U.S. men's basketball team celebrates winning the gold medal after defeating Spain on the final day of the London 2012 Olympics on Sunday, August 12.
Olympics: American gold medals
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Olympics: American gold medals Olympics: American gold medals

Read related: London 2012's top-10 sporting moments

Madison is now back in the U.S., using the lessons she learned on the track to help young girls learn their worth and make positive choices for the future.

As a role model, she is not shy to share her experiences -- including the downs in her life: "I went from being World Champion long jumper in 2005, to nothing in the last seven years, to now being an Olympian.

"I dealt with a bankruptcy; I had my home foreclosed, and these were things that happened and I was not honest with myself about why I was in that situation," she said.

Crucially for her career, she realized that she couldn't deal with everything on her own. She was lucky enough to get help and support from her husband.

Building on this experience, she started Club 360, to give young women love and support, which they might not find elsewhere.

Madison sat down with CNN to talk about the ups and downs of her career and how they motivated her to start the program.

CNN: What is Club 360 and why did you decide to start it?

We teach girls and young women the importance of living with integrity, honor, and self-respect.
Tianna Madison

Tianna Madison: Club 360 is a personal development program for girls aged nine and up. We teach girls and young women the importance of living with integrity, honor, and self-respect and we do that through both online and offline activities. They can learn good habits, take their weaknesses and make them into strengths.

CNN: Why did you decide to incorporate your ideals of "honor, integrity and self-respect" into Club 360's platform?

TM: Integrity means I will not waver from where I want to be, cut corners or cheat myself. When I met my husband, he had a hard conversation with me: I had a weakness where I would say one thing but my action would indicate something else. I would say I wanted to be a great athlete, but I would only give 50% at practice.

I learned to be very honest with myself so I know exactly where I am. I can take those weaknesses and turn them into my strengths.

Honor means that if I say I am going to do ten reps, I will do ten reps. Sometimes 12. It is important to me to bring honor to my sport, to the people I work with, and to my husband. I can only do that by setting the course.

Self-respect: Don't do anything that would derail you or damage you. When you know for a fact who you are and what you want, peer pressure really doesn't exist.

People think that athletes do not put a lot of emphasis on education. That is really not true; education is very important.
Tianna Madison

CNN: How does teamwork play into it?

TM: In a relay, you have to be trusted and you have to trust the next runner. That is what made our team successful. Allyson Felix trusted me to hand her the baton and I trusted her to give me a good target to give her the baton. In school when you have group projects or at work when you have to come together as a team, you have to trust that each person is going to deliver and you have to be trustworthy

iReport: Photos of Tianna Madison

CNN: Part of your group's platform is combating stereotypes and avoiding the over-sexualization of young women. What stereotypes do you feel compelled to combat as a female athlete?

TM: People think that athletes do not put a lot of emphasis on education. That is really not true; education is very important.

We want our members to experience a range of new things. We teach girls not to not keep themselves in a box where they think they are supposed to be or where they fit in.

Tianna Madison on Twitter

CNN: What challenges have you faced in your life and career, and what lessons have you learned that you feel you can pass along to these young women?

TM: I had to deal with being molested in high school and what that did to my self-esteem and my ability to trust. I overcame this with the love and support of my husband.

But this is definitely not a sob story! I also went from being World Champion long jumper in 2005, to nothing in the last seven years, to now being an Olympian. I dealt with a bankruptcy; I had my home foreclosed, and these were things that happened and I was not honest with myself about why I was in that situation. It wasn't until (last) September that I was able to do that.

It took someone like my husband to give me the love and tools to help me change it. It was not something I could do on my own. That is why I wanted to start Club 360 -- so we could give these young women love and support as well.

CNN: What's the biggest lesson you'll take away from your experience in London?

TM: No matter what stage you're on, no matter where you are, it always comes down to your ability to execute. On the other side, the Olympic Games showed me that I was a part of a larger movement. While my role in that movement was in sports, the whole world was involved in a unity that was amazing to see.

Ivana Kottasova contributed to this story

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
In 2006 she sold her business to Estée Lauder in a reported multi-million dollar deal, five years later she started a brand new company.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1014 GMT (1814 HKT)
Some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs have come from women, though like so many inventors their names are lost in the pages of history.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1202 GMT (2002 HKT)
Leading Women hosted a Twitter Chat celebrating girls in science with guests including race car drivers, software developers and coders.
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
There's a fine science to running a billion dollar company. Rosalind Brewer should know -- she used to study chemistry.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Join our twitter chat @CNNIwomen on October 9 at 5pm GMT/12pm EST and look for #CNNwomen #IDG14.
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
STEM experts from Marissa Mayer to Weili Dai share their thoughts to celebrate International Day of the Girl.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1032 GMT (1832 HKT)
When it comes to buildings, they don't come much different than a mosque and a nightclub.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen -- or so the saying goes.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
These 12 fashion experts have millions of followers, but who is the most social woman in fashion?
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Mindy Grossman has been the driving force behind making the Home Shopping Network both hip and profitable, but she still makes time for herself.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1318 GMT (2118 HKT)
Nelly Ben Hayoun speaking at NASA Ames research center
Nelly Ben Hayoun is on a mission to convince the world to take threats such as asteroid strikes more seriously.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 0233 GMT (1033 HKT)
Shenan Chuang turned Ogilvy China into the world's third biggest ad agency, CNN's Kristie Lu Stout asks how she did it.
ADVERTISEMENT