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Jackie Joyner-Kersee

First Pentathlon Win

When she was 14, she won the first of four consecutive national junior pentathlon championships. During those years, she also played basketball and volleyball and was listed on the honor roll for her high grades. In 1980, Joyner-Kersee accepted a scholarship to the University of California in Los Angeles, where her main sport was basketball. During her freshman year, her mother became ill with meningitis, and died. Joyner-Kersee decided to devote herself even more wholeheartedly to athletics because of her mother's desire for her to succeed. After her mother's funeral, she returned to college with a new resolve.

She soon caught the eye of track coach Bob Kersee, who convinced her that multi-event track should be her sport. He was so convinced that she had hidden talent in this event that he told the university authorities that if they did not allow her to switch from basketball to the heptathlon, he would quit his job. They agreed. Joyner-Kersee was already a good long-jumper and 200-meter runner, so she learned to run the 100-meter hurdles and the 800 meters, do the high jump, throw the javelin, and toss the shot put. These seven events are combined in the heptathlon; an athlete's performance in each event is scored, and the athlete with the highest point total for all the events is the winner. In 1982, Joyner-Kersee qualified for the world championships, but she pulled a ham-string and did not compete in the event.


1962 Born in East St. Louis, Illinois
1974 Wins first of four consecutive national junior pentathlon championships
1980-84 Attends University of California-Los Angeles
1984 Competes in Olympic, wins silver medals
1985 Sets world record in long jump
1986 Sets two world records, receives several awards
1986 Marries Bob Kersee
1988 Wins two Olympic gold medals
1992 Wins Olympic gold medal and bronze medal
1996 Wins Olympic bronze medal
1996 Briefly plays with Richmond Rage basketball team
1996-present Works on behalf of a variety of philanthropic causes
1997 Announces creation of the Joyner-Kersee Boys and Girls Club
1998 Announces retirement from competition, but it is not official
2000 Does not qualify for U.S. Olympic team
2001 Officially retires from competition

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsTrack and FieldJackie Joyner-Kersee Biography - An Impoverished Beginning, First Pentathlon Win, Chronology, Competes In First Olympics, An Athlete Committed To Helping Others - SELECTED WRITINGS BY JOYNER-KERSEE: