Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Beauty of Sport, Part Four: Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Oh, come on now, do I have to explain who this is?

Jackie Joyner's mother named her daughter, born in 1962, after First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy because she hoped she would become the First Lady of something.  And while Jackie didn't become the first black First Lady of the United States (she left that honor for Michelle Obama to achieve), she did become the First Lady of Track and Field, an honor that long outlasts being the President's wife.

And why shouldn't it?  Jackie Joyner-Kersee racked up some unforgettable feats as a track star, having won the heptathlon (a series of seven track and field events) at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona - after winning silver in the event at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.  An injury at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta caused her to withdraw from the heptathlon, but she managed a bronze medal in the long jump that year, ending a stellar career that people still talk about today.  But then, she does still hold the world record in the heptathlon. 

Her other accomplishments include gold medals in the heptathlon at the 1987 and 1993 World Championships and a gold medal in the long jump at the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis,. the last Pan Ams held in the U.S.

Her withdrawal from the heptathlon at the Atlanta Olympics was still tough for her to do, but her injury caused her coach, Bob Kersee, great concern.  After all she is his wife.  When he told her she had to quit, he said, "This isn't your coach speaking, Jackie.  This is your husband."     

She's part of an athletic family as esteemed as it is extended.  Her brother is track athlete Al Joyner, the widower of Florence Griffith Joyner, the big star of the Seoul Olympics. 

Jackie Joyner-Kersee's namesake foundation helps provide underprivileged people with athletic lessons and resources, with special emphasis on her hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois.

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