Jacqueline "Jackie" Joyner-Kersee (born March 3, 1962) is a retired American athlete, ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in the women's heptathlon as well as in the women's long jump. She won three gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals, in those two events at four different Olympic Games. Sports Illustrated for Women magazine voted Joyner-Kersee the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th century, just ahead of Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
After retiring as a competitive athlete, Joyner-Kersee has been involved with many philanthropic efforts and has joined the Board of Directors for USA Track & Field (USATF), the national governing body of the sport.
Joyner-Kersee was one of the most famous athletes to overcome severe asthma.
Jacqueline Joyner was born March 3, 1962, in East St. Louis, Illinois, and was named after Jackie Kennedy. As a high school athlete at East St. Louis Lincoln Senior High School, she qualified for the finals in the long jump at the 1980 Olympic Trials, finishing 8th behind another high schooler, Carol Lewis. She was inspired to compete in multi-disciplinary track & field events after seeing a 1975 made-for-TV movie about Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Interestingly, Didrikson, the trackster, basketball player, and pro golfer, was chosen the "Greatest Female Athlete of the First Half of the 20th Century. Fifteen years later, "Sports Illustrated for Women" magazine voted Joyner-Kersee the greatest female athlete of "all time".
Joyner-Kersee attended college at the University of California at Los Angeles, where she starred in both track & field and in women's basketball from 1980-1985. She was a starter in her forward position for each of her first three seasons (1980–81, 81-82, and 82-83) as well as in her senior (fifth) year, 1984-1985. She had red-shirted during the 1983-1984 academic year to concentrate on the heptathlon for the 1984 Summer Olympics.
She was honored on February 21, 1998 as one of the 15 greatest players in UCLA women's basketball. In April 2001, Joyner-Kersee was voted the "Top Woman Collegiate Athlete of the Past 25 Years." The vote was conducted among the 976 NCAA member schools.
Joyner-Kersee was the first woman to score over 7,000 points in a heptathlon event (during the 1986 Goodwill Games). In 1986, she received the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States.
In the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea, Joyner-Kersee earned gold medals in both the heptathlon and the long jump. At the 1988 Games in Seoul, she set the still-standing heptathlon world record of 7,291 points. The silver and bronze medalists were Sabine John and Anke Vater-Behmer, both of whom were representing East Germany. Five days later, Joyner-Kersee won her second gold medal, leaping to an Olympic record of 7.40 m (24 ft 31⁄4 in) in the long jump.
She was everyone's favorite to retain both her World titles earned four years earlier in Rome. However her challenge was dramatically halted when, having won the long jump easily with a 7.32 m (24 ft 1⁄4 in) jump no one would beat, she slipped on the take off board and careened head first into the pit, luckily avoiding serious injury. She did, however, strain a hamstring, which led to her having to pull out of the heptathlon during the 200 m at the end of the first day.
At the Olympic Trials, Joyner-Kersee sustained an injury to her right hamstring. When the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia began, Joyner-Kersee was not fully recovered by the time the heptathlon started. After running the first event, the 100 m hurdles, the pain was unbearable and she withdrew. She was able to recover well enough to compete in the long jump and qualify for the final, but was in sixth place in the final with one jump remaining. Her final jump of 7.00 m (22 ft 111⁄2 in) was long enough for her to win the bronze medal. The Atlanta Olympics would be the last Olympics of Joyner-Kersee's long competitive career.
In 1996 she signed on to play pro basketball for the Richmond Rage of the fledgling American Basketball League. Although she was very popular with the fans, she was less successful on the court. She appeared in only 17 games, and scored no more than four points in any game.
As of April 2015[update], Joyner-Kersee holds the world record in heptathlon along with the top six all time best results whilst her long jump record of 7.49 m is second on the long jump all time list. In addition to heptathlon and long jump, she was a world class athlete in 100 m hurdles and 200 meters being as of June 2006[update] in top 60 all time in those events.