Jackie Joyner-Kersee is a six-time Olympic medalist, a four-time world champion and not only one of the greatest track and field athletes of all time, but also on the short list of greatest Olympians.
Joyner-Kersee turned 52 one month ago, still lives near her original home of East St. Louis, Ill., and is staying involved in track and field while watching another American try to take down her long jump records.
OlympicTalk recently caught up with Joyner-Kersee to look back on her career and to discuss current happenings:
OlympicTalk: What was your favorite Olympic event?
Joyner-Kersee: Oh wow, winning of course [which she did three times, the 1988 and 1992 heptathlon and 1988 long jump], but I would say ’96, the bronze medal [in the long jump] because I had to pull out of the heptathlon [with a hamstring injury]. That was really a dream come true in a sense. Everything came full circle [in my final Olympic event].
OlympicTalk: Who was your favorite competitor?
Joyner-Kersee: [German long jumper] Heike Drechsler was one that I always had to be ready to go up against. And we had a friendship. She was one of the most consistent jumpers out there. I always knew that she would be ready. [Drechsler and Joyner-Kersee swapped long jump Olympic and world titles for the better part of a decade]
OlympicTalk: Where do you keep your medals?
Joyner-Kersee: My aunt keeps them, in East St. Louis.
OlympicTalk: Do you ever see them?
Joyner-Kersee: Oh yes, a lot of times. If I want to take them to the schools [where Joyner-Kersee gives motivational speeches], she can give them to me.
OlympicTalk: Olympic long jump champion Brittney Reese has said her goal is to break your American record of 7.49m. Her best is 7.25m. Do you think she can do it?
Joyner-Kersee: I definitely think that it’s possible because she is one of our most consistent jumpers. I like her as a person, but then also her tenacity and her will to pull it out in the end. I like that about her. I think the biggest thing for her is staying healthy.
OlympicTalk: What are you up to now?
Joyner-Kersee: I’m doing a lot of events for USA Track and Field. The Run, Jump and Throw here in St. Louis — USA Track and Field has partnered with Hershey trying to introduce more kids to being active and having fun.
I’m continuing my work in the [St. Louis] community. That keeps you busy. I do a lot of motivational talks, at a lot of schools, a lot of things on fitness and wellness.