BlackFacts Details

Jackie Joyner-Kersee - Life of a Great Female Athlete

Dates: March 3, 1962 -

Known for: Dominance in womens track and field. Considered by many to be the best all-around female athlete in the world.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee was born in 1962 in East St. Louis, Illinois. She is the second child and eldest daughter of Alfred and Mary Joyner. Her parents were still in their teens at the time, and struggled to provide for their growing family.

They christened their first daughter Jacquiline after then-first-lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The family story is that one of her grandmothers had declared that Some day this girl will be the first lady of something.

As a child, Jackie was growing up too fast for Mary, who knew the difficulty of life as a teenage mother. Jackie has said that even at 10 or 12, I was a hot, fast little cheerleader. Mary told Jackie and her older brother, Al, that they couldnt date until they were 18. Jackie and Al focused on athletics instead of dating. Jackie enrolled in the new track program at the local Mary Brown Community Center, where she had been studying modern dance.

Jackie and Al, who went on to win gold at the 1984 Olympics and marry star runner Florence Griffith, became each others training partners and support. Al Joyner recalls that I remember Jackie and me crying together in a back room in that house, swearing that someday we were going to make it.

Make it out. Make things different.

Jackie didnt win many races at first, but she became inspired when she watched the 1976 Summer Olympics on television, and decided that I wanted to go. I wanted to be on TV, too. At the age of 14, Jackie won the first of four straight national junior pentathlon championships.

At Lincoln High School she was a state champion in both track and basketball -- the Lincoln High girls team won by an average of more than 52 points per game in her senior year. She also played volleyball and encouraged her brother in his athletic career, and she graduated in the top ten percent of her class.

Jackie chose to attend the University of California, Los Angeles

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