Though she retired from athletic competition in 2000, six-time Olympic medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee is still all about winning. The former track-and-field superstar is focused on helping young people in her long-struggling hometown
of East St. Louis, Ill., be the best they can be, regardless of the obstacles. She recalls
her own hurdles vividly. When she got involved with sports at age 9, Joyner-Kersee
says, she was hardly a star. “I wasn’t the best girl out there, and that gave me my drive;
I wanted to be the best,” she says. At 14, she watched the 1976 Summer Olympics on
TV and decided then to make becoming an Olympian her goal.
Her college years at UCLA were filled with highs and lows. She excelled at both track
and field and basketball, for which she earned a scholarship. But during that time,
Joyner-Kersee was also diagnosed with asthma and hid the news from her coaches
until she realized it was a disease that could be controlled. Her mother’s sudden death
from meningitis during her freshman year was devastating—but motivated her to keep
striving to honor her mother’s memory.
Having competed in four Olympic Games, Joyner-Kersee now dedicates her time to
Jackie Joyner-Kersee never forgets where she came from. The
helping underprivileged youth in her town. “It’s so important that the young people in the
community see me here and that we have a dialogue,” she says. “I want them to know
that when you work hard in life and you have a dream, there are infinite possibilities.”
In 1988, she launched the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, which provides
education, sports, and other programs for youth in the East St. Louis area. Her
organization’s greatest accomplishment was the completion of a much-needed
community center on 36 acres of land in 2000. More than a decade later, it remains a
hub of activity. “For me, it was a dream come true,” she says.
Olympic track star is committed to making life better for kids.
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OLYMPIAN JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE BRING HELP HOME
Sunday, Nov. 8, at 7: 30 a.m.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee will speak at the