Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Catching up with Jackie Joyner-Kersee

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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]

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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.

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Alina Zagitova eyes more gold at worlds; women’s preview

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Alina Zagitova hasn’t lost internationally in 18 months, and that doesn’t figure to change this week at the world championships in Milan.

The 15-year-old Russian is favored to become the youngest world gold medalist since Tara Lipinski (duplicating her feat from the Olympics) and make it five straight Olympic or world titles for Russian women, the longest streak for one country since American Carol Heiss won six straight Olympic/world titles from 1956 through 1960.

Zagitova would also become the first Olympic women’s champion to win worlds the following month since Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992. That’s largely because Olympic champions usually skip worlds in Olympic years. Since Yamaguchi, the only one to compete was Yuna Kim, who grabbed silver in 2010.

Zagitova may be young, but she may not have the longevity of Kim to make it to a second Olympics. Russia turns over a new class of elite women’s skaters every year.

Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Alexandra Trusova won the world junior title as the first woman to land two different quadruple jumps in one program. Trusova isn’t old enough to compete at the senior worlds until 2020.

Zagitova’s current rival and training partner, Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, withdrew from worlds due to injury.

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Which leaves the last two Olympic bronze medalists, Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada and Carolina Kostner of Italy, plus PyeongChang fourth-place finisher Satoko Miyahara of Japan as the top challengers this week.

None finished within seven points of Zagitova at any competition this season, the Russian’s first on the senior international level.

Zagitova set herself apart at the Olympics by putting all of her jumps in the second half of her programs for 10 percent bonuses and landing them all with positive grades of execution.

The U.S. contingent includes national champion Bradie Tennell, two-time Olympian Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell (replacement for 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen).

It is the end of a challenging season for U.S. women. In the autumn, none qualified for the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year (after at least one had done so each of the previous seven seasons).

In PyeongChang, no U.S. woman finished in the top six for the first time in Winter Games history. Tennell, who emerged this season after placing ninth at 2017 Nationals, was the top U.S. Olympic finisher in ninth.

Tennell goes into worlds as the top seeded American — seventh — by best international scores this season.

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Olympic golf qualifying, format largely unchanged for 2020

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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf tournaments qualifying and format will remain largely the same as they were for the sport’s return to the Games in 2016, according to Golf Channel, citing a memo sent to PGA Tour players.

The format will again be four rounds of stroke play with 60 men and 60 women taken from the world rankings, according to the report.

The qualifying window to determine the rankings will be July 1, 2018 to June 22, 2020 for men and July 8, 2018 to June 29, 2020 for women. That’s a slight change, as for 2016 the dates were the same for men and women.

The 2016 process saw a maximum of two men and two women per country, or up to four if they were ranked in the top 15.

Then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said one month after the Rio Games that he hoped the Olympic golf format would be changed to have more medals awarded.

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