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USA Track and Field Olympians inspire Indianapolis youth at juvenile detention center and area high school


INDIANAPOLIS -- Four U.S. Olympians and a former American record holder shared personal stories of hardship and triumph to nearly 100 Indianapolis youth at Marion County Juvenile Division on Friday, April 7. The first collaboration of its kind, the event was coordinated through the City of Indianapolis Office of Public Health and Safety.

Bershawn “Batman” Jackson, Bob Beamon, Aretha Thurmond, Sharrieffa Barksdale and Charles “Tyke” Peacock all spoke on their at-times uncertain journeys to Team USA. As part of USATF’s youth community outreach program, the visit aimed to inspire young men and women to see themselves in these success stories and work toward a brighter future.

“Even more than winning medals, USA Track & Field is about inspiring our youth to become the best versions of themselves,” said USATF CEO Max Siegel. “As a product of Indianapolis, I’m grateful to this city in so many ways and excited to collaborate with the Office of Public Health and Safety on this visit.”

“The Office of Public Health and Safety is proud to work with dedicated community partners like USA Track and Field to provide positive role models for our city’s at-risk youth,” said interim Director Paul Babcock. “Breaking the cycle of crime at an early age is key to our mission of promoting the public health, safety and well-being of all in Indianapolis.”

Beijing Olympic bronze medalist Bershawn “Batman” Jackson, who became the first in his family to attend college, reflected on growing up in Miami with other underprivileged youth. He also passed around his medal so that the teenagers, aged 13-18, could get a glimpse at what life could be like for them.

Retired Olympic gold medalist Bob Beamon, who has held the longest-standing Olympic record in the men’s long jump since 1968, stressed the importance of focus and a strong work ethic. “You don’t get here by accident,” he said as he rolled out a tape measure to 29 feet and 2.5 inches to show how far he jumped in 1968. “It takes hard work.”

The two-hour visit also included signed autograph cards for the youth to receive upon their release.

USATF and National Urban League – Indianapolis visit Ben Davis High School track team

On Saturday, USATF once again spoke to local youth, this time over 100 student-athletes at Ben Davis High School. In partnership with the National Urban League – Indianapolis chapter, the track team spent their morning engaging with Bob Beamon, Sharrieffa Barksdale and Charles “Tyke” Peacock.

Barksdale, a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team, received a standing ovation after her speech explaining the power of self-respect and unwavering effort. Peacock, who shot to fame in the 1980s with the American record in the high jump but suffered from addiction, expressed his gratitude for being alive and reunited with family after a tumultuous road to sobriety.

Athletes posed for pictures following the event and enjoyed lunch with the students, courtesy of National Urban League – Indianapolis.

USATF plans to continue the community outreach program, incorporating current and Alumni Olympians and world-class athletes, in an effort to not only give back but also to promote health and fitness locally.


USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track & field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, the World's No. 1 Track & Field Team, the most-watched events at the Olympics, the No. 1 high school and junior high school participatory sport, and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States:

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