Madeline Mims


At what age did you begin participating in running?

I was discovered as an athlete in high school through the President's Physical Fitness Program. I was one of the highest scoring students in physical fitness in the nation. My physical education teacher put me in volleyball, basketball and track. I excelled in all three sports.

What first made you want to participate in running?

My first love for track started when I won the 440-yard dash (now the 400 meters) as a 10th grader in the State meet (Ohio) for my school. I was approached by the head coach for the Cleveland Division of Recreation Track Club to train for a scholarship to college, which later happened. I received a student-athlete scholarship to Tennessee State University and participated on the world-famous track team known as the Tigerbelles.

What other sports did you play growing up? Any good stories about them?

We became state champions in volleyball and basketball while I attended John Hay High School once I joined the teams. Volleyball was actually my favorite sport, but it didn't offer any future opportunities for entering college.

What were some of the challenges you faced? Early on? Now? As a woman?

At the age of 3, I had spinal memingitis and my mother was told that nothing else could be done for me. My mother's prayers got me through the night. For the next few years, I was a sickly little girl, struggling to be normal physically. Later on in my athletic journey, I had to face racism and the myth that women of color could not run longer distances than the short sprints due to fast twitch muscles. I was able to crush that myth with an Olympic, World and American record performance in the 800 meter race.

Greatest moment/accomplishment in your sport?

Winning the Olympic gold medal in the women's 800 meter race and opening the door of opportunity for women of color worldwide.

What keeps you going year after year?

I am presently retired from my athletic career after 16 years of international competition.

Future plans within your sport?

I have served my sport as a volunteer world events and Olympic Chaplain for the last 33 years. I will continue to serve my sport through chaplaincy by passing on the baton to other Olympians in this service.

Future plans outside of the sport, i.e. professional life, personal life?

I have developed a 501C3 organization to academically train Olympians and sport ministers to become professional Olympic chaplains that will serve Team USA as part of the staff during competitions.

How far has the sport of running come during the timeframe in which you have been involved?

More specifically, the middle distance in my sport of track, has taken a slow course of developing. For example, my fastest run in the 800 meters was 1:57.87 50 years ago. It is still among world-class times. Last year, an American record was set at 1:55 which is close to world record time.

Where would you like to see your sport be in the coming years?

I would like to see our American women continue to become more competitive in the middle distance races on a consistent basis.

What lessons have you taken from running that have helped you in your professional and person life away from the track?

Lessons learned from my competitive years in track were: Paying the cost of hard work and discipline to be the best you can be; Trusting the gift God has given you as enough for you to be successful in life; and learning how to serve your fellowman/woman.

What advice do you have for younger athletes coming up in running?

Learn early on that everything that is worth anything will take time and patience and perseverance to come to past. It is the journey, not the finish, that makes us who we are and reveals our purpose in life.

Greatest female athlete of all time?

Wilma Rudolph, the African-American Tigerbelle who won three gold medals in the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. She became a personal friend to me who spoke strong words of encouragement into my life during my years of competition. She was beautiful inside and out. A true role model to women and girls worldwide and a woman of great faith.