“It is better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.”
East St. Louis
Pan American Games
Jackie Joyner-Kersee was born March 3, 1962 in a small poverty-stricken town of East Saint Louis. Her grandmother named her "Jacqueline," after first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie's athletic career began at the age of 9 when she was introduced to sports at a local Boys & Girls Club. Early on Jackie was inspired by two sport star Babe Didrikson Zaharias whom was a stellar athlete in golf, basketball and track and field. Later Zaharias was named the best female athlete of the century motivating Jackie to follow in her footsteps. With Jackie's new found inspiration coupled with her pertinacious attitude and commitment to being the best, she went on to earn 4 consecutive pentathlon national championships at the Junior Olympics. Not only was Jackie a stand out star in athletics but she was also one of the most highly recruited athletes to participate in college basketball and volleyball. Jackie's mom emphasized the importance of education which led Jackie to becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college.
Jackie was nothing short of sensational while participating in sports at UCLA, collecting national championships in the heptathlon and long jump in addition to making major contributions as a starter on the basketball team. After graduating from college Jackie continued to make history while becoming the first woman to win back to back Olympics in the heptathlon. Furthermore, she also became the first woman to win the Olympics in a multi-event and individual event. Her illustrious career includes her earning 1 silver and 2 Olympic bronze medals. Additionally she won 4 world championships and was the winner at the 1987 Pan American Games. Her major accolades includes her winning the Sullivan award for best amateur athlete as well as the coveted Jesse Owens. Moreover, her outstanding performances earned her the title of "greatest female athlete of all time."
After her retirement at the age of 36 she devoted all of her efforts to developing the Jackie Joyner-Kersee foundation where she serves as the board chair. In 2000 she opened a 44,000 square foot facility by raising 12 million dollars to provide local kids with an opportunity to better their lives. The Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center is comprised of an athletic facility, head start program, and after school program that promotes higher learning for teens. As a youth development advocate, she has invested in their lives since the inception of her foundation. In 2007, Joyner-Kersee helped establish Athletes for Hope along with such sports heroes as Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali and Mia Hamm, which is an organization that supports and encourages athletes "to make a difference in the world."
Jackie's commitment to seeing the sport of track and field progress is evident through her duties and participation as a member of the Board of Directors andUSATF Alumni Association. Since her inclusion as a board member in 2012 the organization has made revolutionary breakthroughs, in sponsorship opportunities and revenue increases that have directly impacted athletes, volunteers, officials, coaches and agents. Jackie hoped that someday she would become the "first lady of something," and lived up to that dream by becoming the first lady of track and field.