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"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."

Innocent Egbunike's prayer at the 1988 Olympics

Survive and Advance

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Tianna Bartoletta, CG Sports Publishing, 2021

Survive and Advance is a gripping account of the career of Tianna Bartoletta, two time World Champion and Olympic long jump champion. It is fast moving, interesting and at times disturbing.

The introduction says: “Survive and Advance is a story of a life spent running. My life has not been an easy one to live, and so Survive and Advance is not an easy story to tell. Some of the subject matter may be difficult to read, could be upsetting, or triggering. It is the honor of my life to share this story with Vou. All I’ve ever wanted for myself was to be truly seen; heard when I spoke; and supported when I was struggling. Through all the ups and downs I relay in the pages ahead, I want you to remember this one important truth: I survived”.

As well as the account of her career as a long jumper and sprinter, from the origins to the podium, she describes the challenges including an abusive and controlling marriage in great detail. Race is an issue: “Being black was complicated, that reality hit me like a ton of bricks as I sat alone for the first week of school. And Yet, I would learn that my blackness asset during volleyball and basketball games”.

She grew up in a church-going family, describes childhood experiences, many of them negative. She had Bible verses on her ankle bands. She writes of living that “church life” full-time for 15 years.

The account of her marriage at times defies belief. The meticulous planning of her escape is an exciting read but must have been so horrible to live though.

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