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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Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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