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JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE

JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE
Born March 3, 1962
in East St. Louis, Illinois
5-10/1.78m 153lbs./69kg
Lincoln HS, East St. Louis, Il '80
UCLA '85

PRs (outdoor):
100	11.71 '86 
200	22.30 '88
400	53.64 '90 (51.0 relay '85)
800	2:08.51 '88
100H	12.61 '88
400H	55.05 '85
HJ	6-4/1.93m '88
LJ	24-7/7.49m '94 (AR)
TJ	43-4/13.20m '85
SP	55-3/16.84m '88
JT	164-5/50.12m '86
Hept	7291 '88 (WR)
PRs (indoor):
50H	6.67(A) '96 (AR)
55H	7.37 '89 (AR)
60H	7.81 '89 (AR)
LJ	23-4.75/7.13m '94 (AR)
Major Meets:
1979	2)USA Junior LJ
1980	5h)USA Junior 100H
	1)USA Junior LJ
	8)Olympic Trials LJ
1981	16q)AIAW LJ
	3)AIAW Hept
	12)USA LJ
	2)USA Hept
1982	2)NCAA LJ
	1)NCAA Hept
	18q)USA LJ
	1)USA Hept
1983	8)NCAA 100H
	3)NCAA LJ
	1)NCAA Hept
	4s)USA 100H
	4)USA LJ
	2)USA Hept
	dnf)World Championships Hept
1984	6s)USA Indoor 60yH
	nm)USA Indoor LJ
	dnc-s)USA 200
	dnf-h)USA 100H
	=12)USA HJ
	3)USA LJ
	2)Olympic Trials LJ
	1)Olympic Trials Hept
	5)Olympic Games LJ
	2)Olympic Games Hept
1985	3)NCAA 100H
	2)NCAA 400H
	16q)NCAA LJ
	2)NCAA TJ
	1)GP Final LJ
1986	2)USA Indoor LJ
	5)GP Final 100H
1987	3)USA Indoor 55H
	4h)World Indoor 60H
	1)USA LJ
	1)USA Hept
	1)Pan-Am Games LJ
	1)World Championships LJ
	1)World Championships Hept
	1)GP Final LJ
1988	5)USA Indoor 55H
	1)Olympic Trials LJ
	1)Olympic Trials Hept
	1)Olympic Games LJ
	1)Olympic Games Hept
1989	2)USA Indoor 55H
1990	1)USA LJ
	dnc-f)USA SP
1991	1)USA LJ
	1)USA Hept
	1)World Championships LJ
	dnf)World Championships Hept
1992	1)USA Indoor 60H
	11)USA Indoor LJ
	5s)Olympic Trials
	1)Olympic Trials LJ
	1)Olympic Trials Hept
	3)Olympic Games LJ
	1)Olympic Games Hept
	2)GP Final LJ
1993	1)USA LJ
	1)USA Hept
	1)World Championships Hept
1994	1)USA Indoor LJ
	1)USA 100H
	1)USA LJ
	1)GP Final LJ
1995	1)USA Indoor LJ
	1)USA LJ
	1)USA Hept
	6)World Championships LJ
1996	1)Olympic Trials LJ
	2)Olympic Trials Hept
	3)Olympic Games LJ
	dnf)Olympic Games Hept
Major Relays:
1982	3)NCAA 4 x 100 [3]
1983	5)NCAA 4 x 100 [2]
	6)NCAA 4 x 400 [3]
1985	4)NCAA 4 x 100 [2]
	5)NCAA 4 x 400 [4]
 

A popular rule of thumb in resume writing is "keep it to one page." Good luck to Jackie Joyner-Kersee on that score; she'll need it. The dominant American athlete of the last ten years plus, JJK has been unmatched in her versatility. She owns three number one rankings in the long jump, six in the heptathlon. Add to that three Olympic golds, a silver and two bronzes, and another four gold medals in the outdoor world championships. The title of "World's Greatest Athlete," so often reserved for gold medalists in the decathlon, can be justly given to JJK.

Her Olympic experience is without match in world history:

1980: Only 18, she finished eighth in the Trials long jump, jumping 20-4w as a high schooler in her first trip to the big time. She ranked number two in the prep All-America standings in the LJ, behind Carol Lewis.

1984: A stronger athlete after three years of work with Bob Kersee at UCLA, she scored 6579 to break the American record to win the Trials heptathlon. At the start of the final event, the 800, she realized that her brother, Al, had just made the team in the triple jump (second in 56-4.75). As she described the experience, "I looked up at the screen and thought, 'Oh! Good jump!' but then I figured I had better get around this track in less than 2:18." Later that week, she took second in the long jump (21-10) behind Lewis.

At the Games, the strong favorite in the heptathlon, she finished second to Australia's Glynis Nunn after a tight duel. Leading after the sixth event, she lost it in the 800, partly because of a strained hamstring. "When I lost the gold medal by five points," she told Track & Field News, "I knew it was because of my poor mental approach. I vowed right then I would never again allow myself to be weak mentally."

Later, she leaped 22-2.5 to take fifth in the long jump, the top American there.

1988: JJK's best Olympic year ever. She started the season as the World record-holder in the heptathlon, undefeated since her loss in the LA Olympics. In Indianapolis at the Trials, she did even better, her 7215 tally breaking the record by 57 points. In the long jump, she safely made the team on her first attempt, then chased the World record: She came close, hitting 24-5.5 on a wind-aided leap.

In Seoul, JJK put together her best seven events ever. After straining a knee in the high jump, many worried about her finishing, let alone breaking her own World record. "After the first day people wrote off the World record," said her coach/husband. "They were people who don't know Jackie." The next day, she started off by breaking the Olympic record for the long jump at 23-10.25. In the final event, needing a 2:13.67 for the record, she broke her six-year-old PR in running 2:08.51. The result, a World record 7291, surpassed by just one point what Kersee had secretly predicted in June.

In the long jump she came from behind on her fifth jump, sailing an Olympic record 24-3.5 to beat Heike Drechsler for the gold.

1992: She again won both her events at the Trials. In the heptathlon, she did what she promised, producing just enough to qualify. Her 6695, her worst score in seven years, still won by more than 400 points. Her long jump performance of 23-2.75 came on her first attempt. She passed the rest. Then she tried to make the team in the 100 hurdles, finishing fifth in her semi. Along the way she twisted an ankle, banged a knee, and had more than a couple arguments with her coach.

"Each event Bobby had a comment," JJK told T&FN. "He said I wasn't listening to or doing what he said."

Kersee indicated that the arguments about which events his wife would compete in at the Trials had been going on for some time: "I've missed a lot of meals this year."

In Barcelona, she came alive, handily defeating challenger Sabine Braun of Germany in scoring 7044, a mark only she herself has bettered.

The long jump didn't go so well for the defending champ. She hit 23-2.5 for bronze, falling three inches short of gold. Drechsler won. "This was Heike Day," said Joyner-Kersee.

1996: Joyner-Kersee struggled in the Trials heptathlon, maintaining a sometimes-large lead, but falling far short of typical JJK marks. In the final event, the best she could muster was a modest 2:20.80 for the 800. It would not be enough. Kim Blair caught her, 6406 to 6403. JJK's previous loss to another American happened at nationals 13 years earlier. "Sometimes, defeat is good," she said. "It reminds you that you have to put everything together."

She came back a week later and won the long jump on her first attempt, passing all the rest to ease the strain on her injured right hamstring.

Speculation at the Atlanta Games swirled around the question of Joyner-Kersee's health. Her husband had predicted weeks earlier that she was in 7200 shape, but he must have been thinking of someone else's hamstrings. In the first event of the multi, JJK cleared eight hurdles in the rain before wincing in pain and nearly crashing the last two. Her hamstring had checked out and she was forced to quit the competition.

Several days of furious massage and rehab work at the hands of therapist Bob Forster convinced coach and athlete that the long jump was a possibility. It would be the last Olympic event of her long career. JJK took all six jumps. None was pretty, but the last made history. She leaped 22-11.75, winning the bronze medal by little more than an inch. She now had six Olympic medals, more than any other American woman.

Joyner-Kersee started competing in the multiple events at age 12, when coach George Ward of the East St. Louis Railers urged her to do well in everything. Seeing the 1975 television movie about Babe Didrikson, "Babe", inspired her to become a multi-eventer. Her father, Alfred, had been a hurdler and football player at the same high school. Her mother died of spinal meningitis in 1982. She played volleyball in high school, but excelled at basketball, keying a state championship for her Lincoln High. Her team beat its opponents by an average of 52.8 points her senior year. She turned down a track scholarship at UCLA in favor of a full ride in basketball. A four-year starter at forward, she earned All-America honors while at UCLA.

Joyner-Kersee was named after Jacqueline Kennedy, the idea coming from grandmother Evelyn Joyner, who said at the time, "I just know she's going to be a first lady too." Perhaps fittingly, JJK's degree from UCLA is in history.

She married coach Bob Kersee on January 11, 1986, in a Baptist church in Long Beach where Kersee had once been assistant pastor. Valerie Brisco, American record-holder in the 400 (and JJK's roommate up to that time), was maid of honor. On her biggest difference with her husband, JJK once told T&FN's Howard Willman, "I like to talk and he doesn't." When reminded that her husband often talks on and on, she countered, "Yeah, but I can go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on."

That year, she broke the 7,000-point barrier with her first World record, becoming the first American woman to hold a multi-event record since Didrikson. She won the Sullivan Award as the nation's outstanding amateur athlete, in addition to the Jesse Owens Award and T&FN's Athlete of the Year honors. In 1987, she became the first athlete to win the Owens Award twice and repeated as T&FN's AOY. The following year, she just missed another AOY title, finishing second in the voting to her sister-in-law, sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner. In 1994, seven years after her previous AOY title, she captured the honor again.

Joyner-Kersee has flourished in track despite severe problems with asthma and allergies. Sometime she uses an inhaler to help her get through competitions and at the 1995 USA Championships she finished the heptathlon wearing a mask to strain out pollens. That was better than the alternative of going to the hospital after a competition, something that happened twice to JJK in 1993.

When will Joyner-Kersee retire? Many of us thought she did after the Games, when she signed on to play pro basketball for the Richmond Rage of the fledgling American Basketball League. Wildly popular with the crowds, she was less than successful on the court, playing in 17 games and scoring a game high of only four points. She bowed out earlier than ABL management had expected, saying she wanted to long jump indoors.

She returned to track & field competition in 1998 and won the Goodwill Games heptathlon with 6,502 points on July 22. She ended her season on July 25 at Edwardsville, Ill., when she placed sixth (20-11.75) at the Edwardsville Grand Prix meet. JJK wasn't finished yet, however. She made her final bow in track & field competition in 2000. She was again sixth in the long jump (21-10.75) at the Olympic Trials, closing one of the greatest careers in U.S. track & field history.

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