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Jackie Joyner-Kersee to visit UConn (Released: 2/7/97)

by Luis Mocete, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- Three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee will lecture at the University of Connecticut's Jorgensen Auditorium Feb. 19 in celebration of Black History Month.

Joyner-Kersee will speak at 7 p.m. in a talk sponsored by the Student Union Board of Governors, the H. Fred Simons African American Cultural Center, the Division of Athletics and Jorgensen Auditorium.

"Jackie Joyner-Kersee grew up in an inner city, and who despite enormous odds became a world-class athlete," says Willena Price, director of the African American Cultural Center. "She gives young African Americans a lot of hope... those young people who are struggling even now in their schools and their communities with all sorts of deprivations in their lives, including family and educational problems. They can see someone like Jackie, who made it and just didn't do OK, but went straight to the top."

Joyner-Kersee was born in East St. Louis, Ill., where she won her first of four consecutive National Pentathlon Championships at age 14. After graduating from high school, she accepted a basketball scholarship at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). It was at UCLA where she met her coach and future husband, Bob Kersee, who encouraged her to train for multiple-events contests. In 1983, Joyner-Kersee and her brother, Al Joyner, represented the United States at the world championships in Helsinki, Finland. They also competed in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, where she was favored to win the heptathlon. Because of a tight hamstring, Joyner-Kersee fell short of her goal, but she came in second and won the silver.

Despite this setback, Joyner-Kersee did not stay down for long. A year later, she set the American record in the long jump, and Track and Field News rewarded that effort by ranking her second in the world.

Her success continued in 1986 at the Goodwill Games in Moscow. Joyner-Kersee grabbed the world record in the heptathlon and also became the first person to score more than seven thousand points in this competition.

Twenty-seven days later, she broke her own record by 200 points during competition at the U.S. Olympic Festival. The following year, Joyner-Kersee claimed the world record in the long jump and remained undefeated in 1988, when she capped off the season by winning Olympic gold in both the long jump and the heptathlon.

After reaching this pinnacle, Joyner-Kersee's world rankings suffered and she fell from the top-ten list. But in 1990 she reclaimed her No. 1 heptathlon ranking and her mastery of the seven events, and was once again rewarded during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, where she won her third gold medal.

In 1996, Joyner-Kersee announced that the Olympic Games in Atlanta would be her last. After a nagging injury forced her to withdraw from the heptathlon, she returned to Olympic competition to qualify for the long jump and eventually won a bronze medal.

"Jackie has been a consistent...superior competitor and she will always have a place in Olympic history," Price says.

Tickets for Joyner-Kersee's lecture are available at the Jorgensen Box Office or by calling (860) 486-4226. The talk is free for all UConn students, faculty and staff with valid IDs and $5 for the general public.