Jackie Joyner-Kersee is regarded by many as one of the greatest athletes of all time. She rose to fame for being incredible at track and field and breaking numerous records. Throughout her athletic career, she competed in four different Olympic Games. She won six medals at the Olympics as well as four gold medals at World Championships.
She especially excelled in the heptathlon and long jump events. Joyner-Kersee was the first woman to win consecutive gold medals for the heptathlon at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics. In fact, her record breaking score for the heptathlon in 1988 still stands as the score to beat. What's more impressive is that she accomplished all this while handling asthma. She has continued to support athletes that face health conditions like she did. Additionally, Jackie Joyner-Kersee has made an incredible impact doing lots of non-profit work. She set up the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation to give young kids of St. Louis the tools to succeed.
Jackie's first success in track and field came when she won the National Junior Pentathlon Championships four years in a row. In addition to being an incredible track and field athlete, she was also a great basketball and volleyball player. She ended up going to UCLA on a full scholarship. In 1981, she decided to focus on training for the heptathlon to compete at the next Olympics.
Her training paid off when she made it to her first Olympics in 1984 and earned a silver medal in the heptathlon. Jackie made history in 1986 when she became the first female athlete to score over 7,000 in a heptathlon when she won the event at the Goodwill Games. She beat this record three more times until earning her career best and winning gold at the 1988 Olympics. Jackie also became the first American woman to win gold in the long jump. She took gold in the heptathlon and bronze in long jump in 1992. At the 1996 Olympics she added another bronze medal in the long jump. Joyner-Kersee then came out of retirement to try for the 2000 Olympics but unfortunately did not make it. She officially retired in 2001 and joined the USA Track and Field Board in 2012.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is an iconic American athlete so it makes sense that she has many awards to reflect that. In 1986 she was awarded the James E. Sullivan Award in recognition for being the USA's top amateur athlete. She was also given the Jesse Owens Award in 1986 and 1987. Track and Field News voted her the Female Athlete of the Year in 1986, 1987, and 1994.
In addition to these incredible accolades, Joyner-Kersee has continued to be recognized as a great athlete since retirement. She was titled the best female athlete of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated in 1999. She got inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2004. Even as more time has passed, Jacki Joyner-Kersee is continually remembered as one of the greatest female athletes of all time for her incredible accomplishments throughout her career.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee was born in East St. Louis, Illinois to Alfred and Mary Joyner. She has three siblings including Al Joyner who is another Olympic winning track and field athlete. In 1986 Jackie married her coach, Bob Kersee who was also training her sister-in-law Florence Griffith Joyner. Florence unfortunately passed away in 1998 of a seizure.
Jackie has been committed to helping others throughout her life. She started her foundation in 1988 that still helps young kids in St. Louis succeed in sports, academics, and leadership. Her foundation also helped in the aftermath of the Ferguson Protests in 2014. Additionally, Joyner-Kersee teamed up with other athletes like Muhammed Ali to create Athletes for Hope. This organization helps connect athletes to good causes in their communities. Jackie also worked to help bridge the gap in internet access by teaming up with Comcast. She's given over four million people in low-income communities across the US access to low cost internet services.
The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation was built to help the youth of East St. Louis (where Joyner-Kersee grew up) succeed in life and have access to the opportunities Jackie herself did. The foundation does everything from providing meals to families during the Covid-19 pandemic to providing after school care for children. The team ultimately provides resources to encourage kids to dream big and achieve their athletic, academic, or leadership goals.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee wasn't able to compete in the heptathlon at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia because of a pulled right hamstring. She was very sad to withdraw from her famed event, but after running the hurdles she knew her body couldn't take much else. She still competed in the long jump that year though and was able to win a bronze medal with her last jump reaching almost 23 feet.
The heptathlon is meant to test an athlete's all around success. The players compete in seven different events over the course of two days. The seven events are broken up into three running events, two jumping events, and two throwing events. On the first day, the women compete in 100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, and then end with a 200 meter run. For day two the events are long jump, javelin, and lastly the 800 meter run.
Although Jackie is most famous for still holding the heptathlon record with a score of 7,291 points, she still holds many other awards. She still also holds the USA record for the outdoor long jump and indoor 50 meter hurdles. Her long jump was 7.49 meters. Her indoor 50 meter hurdle time was 6.67 seconds. She is still listed in the top 100 scores for many other track and field events.