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Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Competes In First Olympics

In 1984, the same year she graduated from college, Joyner-Kersee's Olympic dreams came true. Not only did she compete in the Olympics, but she won a silver medal in the heptathlon. Joyner-Kersee set a world record in the long jump in 1985, with a jump of 23 feet 9 inches. In 1986 she set a new world record in the heptathlon at the Goodwill Games in Moscow, accumulating 7,148 points. Three weeks later, running on a 100-degree day in Houston, Texas, she beat her own record. For these two world records, she was awarded the 1986 Sullivan Award for Best Amateur Athlete, as well as the Jesse Owens Award. On January 11, 1986, she married Bob Kersee, changing her name from Jackie Joyner to Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Joyner-Kersee returned to the Olympics two years later to match her performance in her first Olympiad. At the 1988 Olympics, Joyner-Kersee won gold medals in the heptathlon and the long jump, setting yet another record in the heptathlon withv 7,291 points. She won the gold medal in the heptathlon again at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. She also won a bronze medal in the long jump.

Before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, some observers questioned whhaether or not Joyner-Kersee would be able to win a medal in the heptathlon. She was 34, and no athlete, male or female, had ever won a multievent at that age. According to Great Women in Sports, Joyner-Kersee told a reporter for Women's Sports + Fitness, "That's the ultimate challenge—to do something nobody has been able to do. I would love that." She also said that one secret of her longevity as an athlete is that she took good care of herself, and didn't compete very often: she only did two heptathlons a year, avoiding burnout.

At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Joyner-Kersee suffered a hamstring injury and had to withdraw from the heptathlon, but took a bronze medal in the long jump. She later said that because she was battling the injury, she was as proud of the bronze medal as if it were gold. After the Olympics, Joyner-Kersee signed a one-year contract to play basketball with the Richmond Rage, but did not play much. She left in the middle of the season because of injuries.

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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: