Profile: Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1962-)

American track and field great Jackie Joyner-Kersee won three Olympic gold medals and numerous national titles during her record-setting career.

Who Is Jackie Joyner-Kersee?

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is one of the greatest track and field athletes in American history. The first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the long jump and the first woman to compile more than 7,000 points in the seven-event heptathlon, Joyner-Kersee went on to win three golds, a silver and two bronze medals over four separate Olympics. She was named Sports Illustrated for Women‘s top female athlete of the 20th century.

Early Hardship and Athletic Success

Joyner-Kersee was born on March 3, 1962, in East St. Louis, Illinois. The daughter of teenage parents, she endured financial hardship while growing up, but soon rose above the pack with her athletic prowess.

As a teen, she won the National Junior Pentathlon championships four years in a row, and received widespread honors in high school in various sports, including track, basketball and volleyball. Joyner-Kersee thrived as a basketball and track-and-field star, and during her junior year, she set the Illinois high-school long jump record for women, with a 6.68-meter jump.

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