As one of the most decorated female athletes of all time, Jackie Joyner-Kersee ’86 dominated the track and field circuit for 13 years and won three gold, one silver and two bronze medals spanning four Olympic Games during her illustrious career. At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, she won the silver medal in the heptathlon. Four years later, at the 1988 games in Seoul, Korea, Joyner-Kersee struck gold in both of her signature events, the long jump and heptathlon, establishing a world record in the latter. She followed that up at the 1992 games in Barcelona, Spain by winning gold in the heptathlon and bronze in the long jump. In her final Olympic appearance at the 1996 Atlanta games, she won the bronze medal in the long jump. In addition, she won a total of four gold medals (two in the heptathlon and two in the long jump) at three different World Championships and finished first in the long jump at the 1987 Pan American Games.
Sports Illustrated for Women magazine named Joyner-Kersee the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century. She was honored by Track & Field News as the World Athlete of the Year on three different occasions, in 1986, 1987 and 1994. She also was named as the top American Athlete five times, in 1986, 1987, 1991, 1992 and 1994.
Joyner-Kersee received the Jesse Owens Award in both 1986 and 1987. She still holds the world record in the heptathlon (7291 points) and is the American record holder in the long jump (24 feet, 7 inches). In March 2002 Ebony magazine included her on its list of the Top 10 Greatest African-American Women Athletes. Finally, on December 3, 2004, she was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame.
Joyner-Kersee attended college at UCLA and starred in both track and field, and women's basketball from 1980 to 1985. A four-year starter on the Bruins' basketball team, she is still listed among the school's career leaders in scoring average, rebounding and assists.
The inaugural recipient of the Humanitarian Athlete of the Year, Joyner-Kersee is known worldwide for her interest in aiding others. She has helped to build the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center Foundation in her hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois, that has raised more than $12 million.
In 2007, she along with several notable athletes, founded Athletes for Hope, a charitable organization of professional athletes who get involved in charitable causes and inspire millions of non-athletes to volunteer and support their community.
In 2010, Joyner-Kersee was honored with an NCAA Silver Anniversary Award given each year by the National Collegiate Athletic Association to recognize six distinguished former student-athletes on their 25th anniversary as college graduates. Most recently, Joyner-Kersee was selected as the recipient of the 2011 Dick Enberg Award. The award is presented annually to a person whose actions and commitment have furthered the meaning and reach of the Academic All-America Teams Program while promoting the values of education and academics.
Joyner-Kersee has recently embarked upon a nationwide effort to enhance the comprehensive health of our nation’s communities through the promotion of healthy lifestyles. She has been asked by the United States Department of Agriculture to promote “My Plate,” the replacement for the food pyramid. She has also joined forces with the 77-year-old Farm Foundation to address the availability of healthy foods in challenged communities throughout the United States. In addition, she just completed a series of internal public service announcements to promote the use of the agency’s online products.
Joyner-Kersee is married to famed track and field coach Bobby Kersee. She currently resides in Baldwin, Missouri.
Girls playing sports is not about winning gold medals. It’s about self-esteem, learning to compete and learning how hard you have to work in order to achieve your goals." ~ Jackie Joyner-Kersee ’86