Olympics Photo of the Day

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


The First Lady of the Heptathlon

When she was born on 3 March 1962, she was named Jacqueline after the wife of U.S. President John F. Kennedy because, in the words of her grandmother, "Someday this girl will be the First Lady of something". She was right. The first of Jackie Joyner's four Olympic appearances came in 1984, when she competed in both the seven-event heptathlon and in the long jump. Ironically, Joyner's downfall in the heptathlon came in her best event, the long jump, when she fouled her first two attempts and had to play it safe with a mediocre final jump. In the end, she earned a silver medal, missing the gold by only five points. Had she jumped only three centimetres farther or finished the 800m only one third of a second faster, she would have won. In the formal long jump competition, she placed fifth. By the time of the 1988 Olympics, Joyner-Kersee (she had married her coach, Bob Kersee) was so much better at the heptathlon than everyone else, that her husband had to invent a fantasy opponent: Wilhelmina World Record. At the Seoul Games, Joyner-Kersee won the gold by beating Wilhelmina by 76 points. Five days later, she earned a second gold medal in the long jump with a fifth-round leap of 7.40m. Joyner-Kersee easily won the heptathlon again at the 1992 Olympics. In the long jump, she gained a bronze medal. At the age of 34, Joyner-Kersee competed in the Olympics one last time, at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Entered only in the long jump, she was in seventh place after five rounds. With her last jump, she hit 7 metres and leapfrogged into third place to bring her career medal total to 3 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze.