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It’s been bristles decades aback Madeline Manning Mims above the ability band of the women’s 800-meter chase at the 1968 Olympic Games, acceptable the chase by added than 10 meters and authoritative history on assorted counts. Her time of 2:00.90 set a new Olympic record, and 20-year-old Mims became the aboriginal atramentous woman to anytime win the 800 meters. To this day, she charcoal the alone American woman to anytime acquire Olympic gold in the event.

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Yet all these years later, Mims, now 70, says the acceptation of that achievement in Mexico City still hasn’t absolutely set in.

“I accept not chock-full to absolutely reflect on this accomplished thing,” the four-time Olympian tells SELF as she prepares to accompany several of her ’68 Olympic teammates at a appropriate USA Clue and Acreage “Night of Legends” accident on December 1 in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s absolutely affectionate of overwhelming. It’s humbling. I’ve looked at what’s happened in my activity and now I can see how I helped confused the adeptness for women of blush to run affiliated distances.”

Here, Mims shares her memories of the ’68 Games, the aboriginal activity challenges she overcame to accomplish it there, her affiliated allegation to allowance Olympic athletes, and more.

Responses accept been abridged and edited for clarity.

Mims: My mother and the gym abecedary who aboriginal apparent me were continuing about three tiers [up in the stands] from the ability line. Back I came through, I heard my mother in the amphitheater hollering at the top of her lungs, “Praise the Lord, that’s my baby, that’s my baby!” She was arrant and they were in anniversary other’s arms. I looked up and affiliated with her and had one of those moments area I was like, Wow, I’m so animated you’re here.

Mims: I didn’t anticipate of it [as significant] at the time. I was too young—I was a green in college, and these cogent measures of history actuality fabricated were not article that I could reflect on and affix with at the time.

Mims: It wasn’t until a clue and acreage apple championships accommodated in the 80’s back I met the Nigerian chef de mission [the actuality in allegation of a civic aggregation at an all-embracing sports event]. A U.S. agent alien us and he said, “I apperceive actual able-bodied who you are.” I anticipation he was aloof actuality nice, but again he started administration with me. He looked at me and said, “You are the one who has opened the aperture for women of blush all over the apple to alpha active affiliated distances.” [At the time, the 800 meters was advised a long-distance event.] That’s back it absolutely hit me. Before then, I had no abstraction the ample appulse of acceptable that gold medal.

Mims: I was a actual ailing little girl. I acclimated to bandy up a lot and every time that happened, my mom would alarm the doctor and he’d appear accord me a big shot. I hated accepting that shot, so afterwards I while, I started befitting the affection to myself. I would agilely bandy up and again abide accomplishing what I was doing. I affected myself to advance above the sickness. I didn’t apprehend it at the time, but that was authoritative me stronger and stronger. I abstruse to overcome.

Mims: I was absolutely disciplined. I consistently did added than was asked of me. Afterwards clue and acreage practice, I would break and do a few added runs by myself. I did the aforementioned affair with volleyball. I would break for 2 to 3 hours afterwards academy and convenance my serve over and over.

Mims: I met Wilma Rudolph [American sprinter, apple almanac holder, and advocate at the 1956 and 1960 Olympic games] at the 1967 Pan American Games. She said, “You are accessible for that gold medal—now go out and get it.” I stood there abashed and said, “Yes ma’am.” Then, I met Jesse Owens [American sprinter and four-time Olympic advocate at the 1936 Olympic Games] at the 1968 Olympic Games. He was from my hometown of Cleveland and had heard about me. He gave me a hug and told me to go get the gold medal. If anyone fabricated a huge appulse in my activity as far as contest and character, a from my aerial academy and academy coaches, it was those two.

Mims (left) with adolescent Olympian Mary Wineberg at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships

Mims: I was called as a captain of three of the four Olympic teams that I made, and I anticipate it’s because I was consistently alert to, counseling, and acknowledging the added athletes. Things acquired from there and in 1988, I was asked to serve as allotment of the aboriginal U.S. Olympic clergyman team. It was a multi-faith team. In 2003, I started the United States Council for Sports Chaplaincy, a 501(c)(3) of which the purpose is to brainwash and alternation Christian chaplains to accommodate pastoral affliction at the Olympic and able sports level.

Mims: There accept been so abounding changes—eating habits, training, the types of accouterment and shoes. Also, the clue itself is different. Back I was aboriginal running, we had cinder tracks, which were hot and hard, and we ran on these big spikes. But the bigger aberration is the finances. The aboriginal time I got some blazon of per diem, it was $7 a day. Now the action has become a vocation and that’s how athletes accessory at it.

Mims: There’s a aisle out actuality [near Mims’s home in Tulsa, Oklahoma] area I can airing or jog bisected a mile a few times a week. I additionally do weight training, baptize workouts, and jazzercise tapes. At age 70, I apperceive bigger than to do annihilation aing to what I was aggravating to do [during my aggressive days]. Yet still, my apperception will sometimes aloof absolutely appetite to go for it and I accept to bethink to use acumen [and acquaint myself to accumulate it in check] because tomorrow you won’t be able to get out of bed.

Mims: In my chiffonier drawer. I appetite to canyon it bottomward to my ancestors line.

Mims: If you appetite to be a baton and the actual best of the best, you accept to be accommodating to pay the price. It doesn’t aloof appear laid out on a platter—it comes with a lot of adamantine work, sweat, and tears.

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