Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Joyner-Kersee in 2014
Personal information
BornJacqueline Joyner
(1962-03-03) March 3, 1962 (age 62)[1]
East St. Louis, Illinois, U.S.[1]
Height5 ft 10 in (178 cm)[1]
Weight154 lb (70 kg)[1]
CountryUnited States
Event(s)Long jump, heptathlon
College teamUCLA (1980–1985)
ClubTiger World Class Athletic Club
West Coast Athletic Club
McDonald's Track Club

Jacqueline Joyner-Kersee (born March 3, 1962) is a retired American track and field athlete, ranked among the all-time greats 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 served on the board of directors for USA Track & Field (U.S.A.T.F.), the national governing body of the sport.[2]

Joyner-Kersee is an active philanthropist in children's education, racial equality and women's rights.[3] She is a founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, which encourages young people in East St. Louis to pursue athletics and academics.[3] She collaborated with Comcast to create the Internet Essentials program in 2011, which provides high-speed internet access to low-income Americans.[3][4][5]

Joyner-Kersee is one of the most famous athletes to have overcome severe asthma.[6] In March 2023, she was inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame.[7]

Early life

Jacqueline Joyner was born March 3, 1962, in East St. Louis, Illinois, and was named after Jacqueline Kennedy, the First Lady of the United States.[8] 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.[9] She was inspired to compete in multi-disciplinary track & field events after seeing a movie about Babe Didrikson Zaharias.[citation needed] Didrikson, the track star, 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.


Jackie Joyner attended college at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where she starred in both track & field and in women's basketball from 1980 to 1985 and graduated with a bachelor's in history in 1986.[10] 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 won the Broderick Award, (now the Honda Sports Award) as the nation's best female collegiate track and field competitor in 1983 and in 1985, and was awarded the Honda-Broderick Cup, given to the nation's best female collegiate athlete in 1985.[11][12][13]

She scored 1,167 points during her collegiate career, which places her 19th all time for the Bruins games.[14] The Bruins advanced to the West Regional semi-finals of the 1985 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament before losing to eventual runner-up Georgia.[14]

She was honored on February 21, 1998 as one of the 15 greatest players in UCLA women's basketball.[15] 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.[16]

UCLA statistics


  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


Joyner-Kersee at the 1988 Olympic Trials

1984 Summer Olympics

Joyner 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 five points behind Australian Glynis Nunn.[18] She also placed fifth in the long jump.[19]

1986 Goodwill Games

Joyner 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 Olympics

Now known as Jackie Joyner-Kersee after marrying her coach Bob Kersee,[20] she entered the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea and earned gold medals in both the heptathlon and the long jump. At the Games, 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.[19] 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.

At the Games she faced unfounded allegations of drug use by the men's 800m 1984 Olympic gold medalist and 1988 Olympic silver medalist Joaquim Cruz.[21] This continued the following season in 1989 when Darrell Robinson accused her husband and coach, Bobby Kersee, of distributing performance-enhancing drugs.[22] Years later, doping insider Victor Conte asserted that in 1988 he personally witnessed an Olympic official at the Seoul games notifying Bobby Kersee that Joyner-Kersee had tested positive for PED use.[23]

1991 World Championships

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 headfirst 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 Olympics

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.[19]

1996 Summer Olympics

At the Olympic Trials, Joyner-Kersee sustained an injury to her right hamstring. When the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta 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.[8][24] 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.[19] The Atlanta Olympics was the last Olympics of Joyner-Kersee's long competitive career.

Professional basketball career

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.[8]

1998 Goodwill Games

Returning to track, Joyner-Kersee won the heptathlon at the 1998 Goodwill Games, scoring 6,502 points.[8]

2000 Olympic trials

Two years after retiring, Joyner-Kersee tried to qualify for the long jump event at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She placed sixth at 21–10 ¾.[8][25]

Awards and honors

Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1996 book signing
World Athlete of the Year (Women):1994[29]

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 records

To date, 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.[34][35]

Personal bests

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

TV appearances

In 2000, Joyner-Kersee played herself in an episode of The Jersey called "Legacy"[36] where Nick Lighter (played by Michael Galeota) uses a magical jersey by jumping into her body as he is coached by her husband (Bob Kersee as himself) on how to put the shot for a track and field competition.

In 2023, Joyner-Kersee appeared on the PBS program Groundbreakers, hosted by Billie Jean King.[37] She and other female athletes had one on one discussions about accomplishments in women's sports.

Personal life

Jackie's brother is the Olympic champion triple jumper Al Joyner, who was married to Olympic track champion Florence Griffith Joyner. Jackie married her track coach, Bob Kersee, in 1986.[8][19]

In 1988, Joyner-Kersee established the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, which provides youth, adults, and families with athletic, academic 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.[38]


  1. ^ a b c d Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Jackie Joyner-Kersee". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  2. ^ "USA Track & Field – USATF Board welcomes three new members". Usatf.org. January 23, 2012. Archived from the original on April 24, 2012. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Four million low-income Americans have crossed the digital divide through Comcast's Internet Essentials program". www.insightnews.com. Archived from the original on February 18, 2018. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  5. ^ Dahlberg, Nancy (August 15, 2017). "Miami's low-income seniors and youth to benefit as Comcast expands Internet access". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on August 15, 2017. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
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  7. ^ Dr. Robert M. Goldman. "2023 International Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (Full Program) Official Footage". YouTube. Retrieved March 17, 2023.
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  12. ^ "Past Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Winners (Honda Cup)". CWSA. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  13. ^ a b c "Track & Field". CWSA. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  14. ^ a b Usc Women's Basketballs all 2009–2010 Media guide – Copy available at uclabruins.com
  15. ^ UCLA Women's Basketball 2006–2007 Media guide – Copy available at uclabruins.com
  16. ^ 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
  17. ^ "UCLA Media Guide" (PDF). Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  18. ^ Athletics at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games: Women's Heptathlon. sports-reference.com
  19. ^ a b c d e Jackie Joyner-Kersee Archived September 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Sports Reference
  20. ^ Ostler, Scott. (May 12, 1987) "Her Marriage Takes Work, and It Works!".|work=Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  21. ^ "THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 13 : Unfounded Rumors : Brazil's Cruz Implies Drug Use by U.S. Women, then Tries to Take It Back". Los Angeles Times. September 29, 1988.
  22. ^ Brennan, Christine (September 22, 1989). "DRUG CLAIMS DENIED BY GRIFFITH JOYNER". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 27, 2017. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  23. ^ Odeven, Ed (August 11, 2015). "Conte says coverup protected big stars at Seoul Games". The Japan Times. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  24. ^ Athletics at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games: Women's Heptathlon. sports-reference.com
  25. ^ Longman, Jere (July 17, 2000). "After two fouls, it's clear sailing for Jones". The New York Times.
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  27. ^ a b Jesse Owens Award usatf.org
  28. ^ Jack Buck
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  30. ^ "Jack Kelly Fair Play Recipients". TeamUSA.org. Archived from the original on September 26, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  31. ^ "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". St. Louis Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on October 31, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  32. ^ "Laureates by Year – The Lincoln Academy of Illinois". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  33. ^ Independent, Ledger (March 24, 2021). "Maysville resident to receive honorary doctorate". Ledger Independent – Maysville Online. Retrieved June 10, 2023.
  34. ^ Kersee, Jackie Joyner Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine By LaTasha Chaffin Graduate Student, Grand Valley State University.
  35. ^ Joyner-Kersee, Jackie, and Sonja Steptoe. A Kind of Grace . New York: Warner Brothers Books, 1997. ISBN 0-446-52248-1.
  36. ^ "The Jersey Season 1 Legacy (via TV.Com)". Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  37. ^ Groundbreakers | PBS, retrieved November 25, 2023
  38. ^ "Athletes for Hope". Athletes for Hope. Retrieved April 11, 2012.