Open main menu

Jacqueline Joyner-Kersee (born March 3, 1962) is an American retired track and field athlete, ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in the heptathlon as well as 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 All-Time. She is on the Board of Directors for USA Track & Field (USATF), the national governing body of the sport.[1]

Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Jackie Joyner-Kersee Eugene 2014.jpg
Joyner-Kersee in 2014.
Personal information
Born (1962-03-03) March 3, 1962 (age 57)
East St. Louis, Illinois, U.S.
Height178 cm (5 ft 10 in)
Weight66 kg (146 lb)
CountryUnited States
Event(s)Long jump, heptathlon
ClubTiger World Class Athletic Club
West Coast Athletic Club
McDonald's Track Club

Joyner-Kersee is an active philanthropist in children's education, racial equality and women's rights.[2] She is a founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, which encourages young people in East St. Louis to pursue athletics and academics.[2] She partnered with Comcast to create the Internet Essentials program in 2011, which costs $9.95/month for low-income Americans and offers low-cost laptops and 40 hours/month of high-speed internet service. Since its inception, it has provided internet access to 4 million Americans.[2][3][4]

Joyner-Kersee is one of the most famous athletes to have overcome severe asthma.[5]

Early lifeEdit

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.[6] She was inspired to compete in multi-disciplinary track & field events after seeing a 1975 made-for-TV movie about Babe Didrikson Zaharias. 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, just ahead of Zaharias.


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 scored 1,167 points during her collegiate career, which places her 19th all time for the Bruins games.[7] The Bruins advanced to the West Regional semi-finals of the 1985 NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament before losing to eventual runner-up Georgia.[7]

She was honored on February 21, 1998 as one of the 15 greatest players in UCLA women's basketball.[8] 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.[9]

UCLA statisticsEdit


  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
1984-85 UCLA 29 368 46.5% 45.9% 9.1 1.4 2.1 0.1 12.7
1982-83 UCLA 28 246 41.4% 65.7% 5.6 1.8 1.0 0.2 8.8
1981-82 UCLA 30 239 38.1% 67.7% 5.8 2.3 1.3 0.1 8.0
1980-81 UCLA 34 314 50.6% 63.3% 4.6 2.3 1.2 0.0 9.2
Career Basketball UCLA 121 1167 44.4% 58.5% 6.2 2.0 1.4 0.1 9.6


1984 Summer OlympicsEdit

Joyner-Kersee competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and won the silver medal in the heptathlon. She was the favorite heading into the event, but finished 5 points behind Australian Glynis Nunn.

1986 Goodwill GamesEdit

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.

1988 Summer OlympicsEdit

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 3 14 in) in the long jump. She was the first American woman to earn a gold medal in long jump as well as the first American woman to earn a gold medal in heptathlon.

1991 World ChampionshipsEdit

Joyner-Kersee 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 14 in) jump no one would beat, she slipped on the take off board and careened head first into the pit, 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.

1992 Summer OlympicsEdit

In the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, Joyner-Kersee earned her second Olympic gold medal in the heptathlon. She also won the bronze medal in the long jump which was won by her friend Heike Drechsler of Germany.

1996 Summer OlympicsEdit

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 11 12 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.

Professional basketball careerEdit

In 1996 Joyner-Kersee 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 15 points in any game.

1998 Goodwill GamesEdit

Returning to track, Joyner-Kersee won the heptathlon again at the 1998 Goodwill Games, scoring 6,502 points.

2000 Olympic TrialsEdit

Two years after retiring, Joyner-Kersee tried to qualify to compete in the long jump at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She failed to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team after finishing in sixth at 21-10 ¾ at the Olympic Trials.[11]

Awards and honorsEdit

Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1996 book signing.

Since 1981, the Jesse Owens Award is given by USATF (and before its renaming, TAC) the United States' track and field "athlete of the year." In 1996, the award was split to be given to the top athlete of each gender. In 2013, the Female award was renamed the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award.

Current world recordsEdit

As of October 2019, 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 in top 60 all time in those events.

Sports Illustrated voted her the greatest female athlete of the 20th century.

Joyner-Kersee has consistently maintained that she has competed throughout her career without performance-enhancing drugs.[16][17]

Personal bestsEdit

Performances table during the world record in 1988
Event Performance Wind Points Notes
100 metres hurdles 12.69 s +0.5 m/s 1172
Long jump 7.27 m +0.7 m/s 1264 Heptathlon Best; highest score for a single event
High jump 1.86 m 1054
200 m 22.56 s +1.6 m/s 1123
Shot put 15.80 m 915
Javelin throw 45.66 m 776
800 m 2 min 8.51 s 987 PB
Total 7291 WR
Personal bests 


In 2000, Kersee played herself in an episode of The Jersey called "Legacy"[18]where Nick Lighter (played by Michael Galeota) uses a magical jersey by jumping into her body as he is coached by her husband (played by Bob Kersee) on how to put the shot for a track and field competition.

Personal lifeEdit

Jackie's brother is the Olympic champion triple jumper Al Joyner, who was married to another Olympic track champion, Florence Griffith Joyner. Jackie married her track coach, Bob Kersee, in 1986.[19]

In 1988, Joyner-Kersee established the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, which provides youth, adults, and families with athletic lessons and the resources to improve their quality of life with special attention directed to East St. Louis, Illinois. In 2007, Jackie Joyner-Kersee along with Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, Warrick Dunn, Mia Hamm, Jeff Gordon, Tony Hawk, Andrea Jaeger, Mario Lemieux, Alonzo Mourning, and Cal Ripken, Jr. founded Athletes for Hope, a charitable organization that helps professional athletes get involved in charitable causes and inspires millions of non-athletes to volunteer and support the community.[20]


  1. ^ "USA Track & Field - USATF Board welcomes three new members". January 23, 2012. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c Brunner, Jeryl. "Legendary Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee Shares The Best Advice She's Ever Gotten". Forbes. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  3. ^ "Four million low-income Americans have crossed the digital divide through Comcast's Internet Essentials program". Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  4. ^ "Miami's low-income seniors and youth to benefit as Comcast expands Internet access". Miami Herald. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  5. ^ "Jackie Joyner-Kersee: Living with Asthma". MedlinePlus the Magazine. 6 (3): 9. Fall 2011.
  6. ^ Hyman, Richard S. (2008) The History of the United State Olympic Trials Track & Field. USA Track & Field
  7. ^ a b Usc Women's Basketball 2009-2010 Media guide - Copy available at UCLABRUINS.COM
  8. ^ UCLA Women's Basketball 2006-2007 Media guide - Copy available at UCLABRUINS.COM
  9. ^ Jackie Joyner-Kersee Is Named The 'Top Woman Collegiate Athlete Of The Past 25 Years Archived November 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, April 25, 2001. UCLA Bruins official Athletic site
  10. ^ "UCLA Media Guide" (PDF). Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  11. ^ Longman, Jere (July 17, 2000). "After two fouls, it's clear sailing for Jones". New York Times.
  12. ^ a b Jesse Owens Award.
  13. ^ "Jack Kelly Fair Play Recipients". Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  14. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  15. ^ "Laureates by Year - The Lincoln Academy of Illinois". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  16. ^ Kersee, Jackie Joyner Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine By LaTasha Chaffin Graduate Student, Grand Valley State University.
  17. ^ Joyner-Kersee, Jackie, and Sonja Steptoe. A Kind of Grace . New York: Warner Brothers Books, 1997. ISBN 0-446-52248-1.
  18. ^ "The Jersey Season 1 Legacy (via TV.Com)". Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  19. ^ Jackie Joyner-Kersee Archived September 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Sports Reference
  20. ^ "Athletes for Hope". Athletes for Hope. Retrieved April 11, 2012.

Further readingEdit

  • Lansbury, Jennifer H. A Spectacular Leap: Black Women Athletes in Twentieth-Century America. , 2014. Print.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Heike Drechsler
Women's Long Jump World Record Holder
equalled the 7.45 mark by Heike Drechsler

August 13, 1987 — June 11, 1988
Succeeded by
Galina Chistyakova
Preceded by
Sabine John
Women's Heptathlon World Record Holder
July 7, 1986 –
Succeeded by
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Marita Koch
Wang Junxia
Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Florence Griffith-Joyner
Sonia O'Sullivan
Preceded by
Martina Navratilova
Flo Hyman Memorial Award
Succeeded by
Evelyn Ashford
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Sabine John
Larisa Nikitina
Women's Heptathlon Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Larisa Nikitina
Heike Drechsler
Preceded by
Heike Drechsler
Women's Long Jump Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Galina Chistyakova
Heike Drechsler
Lyudmila Galkina