Mass Mutual and NewsOne join together to present 28 dynamic people that make up the diverse tapestry of Black History. For the entire month of February, Black History Month, we will feature one Person of the Day and highlight their lives and achievements.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee (pictured) made her mark as an athlete, becoming the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in the long jump event. She also stands as the first woman to earn more than 7,000 points in the epic heptathlon event. The track and field star also used her fame to found the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation dedicated in promoting athletics among underprivileged youth.
Joyner-Kersee was born in East St. Louis, Ill., on March 3, 1962. An exceptional high school athlete, she excelled in track and field, volleyball, and basketball, although it would be the long jump event that would become her strongest event. After breaking an Illinois record in the event, Joyner-Kersee set her sights on Olympic gold.
As a student at UCLA, Joyner-Kersee continued to star in track and field and basketball but turned her focus on the heptathlon in her junior year for the 1984 Summer Olympics. Joyner-Kersee would receive the first of her six Olympic medals during the Summer Games, winning a Silver in the heptathlon event. Joyner-Kersee also owns three Gold and two Bronze medals across the long jump and heptathlon events.
After officially retiring from sports in 2001 at the age of 38, Joyner-Kersee opened her foundation in her hometown. Her story in overcoming poverty and discrimination no doubt serves as a necessary teaching tool for the young people her foundation serves.
Joyner-Kersee is also one of the founders of the Athletes for Hope organization alongside former NBA star Alonzo Mourning, Muhammad Ali, former NFL player Warrick Dunn, and former tennis star Andre Agassi. Athletes for Hope puts a strong emphasis on academics along with promoting athletics and gives current and former athletes opportunities to give back to their communities.
Joyner-Kersee has been married to her former track coach, Bob Kersee, since 1986. Joyner-Kersee, who suffers from exercise-induced asthma, has been a spokesperson and advocate for asthma research for some time now as well.