Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Joyner-Kersee Enjoys Visit to `Her' Meet

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Joyner-Kersee Enjoys Visit to `Her' Meet

Article excerpt

Her smile brightened an overcast, April day. Her words often produced a hush amid the customary mayhem of a spring track meet.

Clad in a white warmup suit, she made her rounds and like a Pied Piper - fans followed.

There's Jackie. Where? There!

For the most part, when she isn't competing in international track and field, Jackie Joyner-Kersee stays out of the spotlight.

Thus, was her appearance at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee East St. Louis Relays earlier this month at Clyde C. Jordan Memorial Stadium in East St. Louis.

In the eyes of Joyner-Kersee, who participates faithfully in the hometown invitational named for her, the meet's mission is bigger than she.

"The whole idea is to get everyone involved," said Joyner-Kersee, a 1980 Lincoln graduate.

"The track meet is good, but the best part was the (Friday motivational session) with all the young ladies, and the teachers and the parents."

That was when Lincoln was transformed into a Who's Who of Track and Field, as Joyner-Kersee and international teammates Greg Foster and Gail Devers spoke to youths from 21 high schools, some having come from as far as Grandview, Mo. and Naperville, Ill. They encouraged self-esteem and friendships among the female student-athletes.

"I think sometimes, people can take me for granted, or misconstrue who I am, because they really don't know who I am," Joyner-Kersee said. "It's not for me to get out there and show who I am. When I was coming up, we really didn't have role models who came back into the community and worked with us.

"I can remember driving to Carbondale and watching Flo Hyman at the time, when the USA basketball team played against the Japanese. We had to drive far away to see people, going to the AAU Junior Olympics in Nebraska, where I'd meet a Wilma Rudolph or a Rafer Johnson. I think it means so much to these kids, and it has a greater impact, being there in person. The message I'm trying to convey is if you want to make a difference, you have to be there."

By lending her name to the meet, "I think it's going to bring track and field back to the point where people are going to want to come back and watch track and field," Joyner-Kersee said.

Note that she said watch track and field, not her.

"Everything that I do, I take it seriously," Joyner-Kersee said.

"I do think that if I'm committed to something; I'm committed to it because I believe in the cause. I know that if it weren't for people like (Lincoln) Coach (Nino) Fennoy and so many others who gave me a chance when I was coming up, there is no way I could have developed into the athlete that I am today."

She is considered the world's greatest female athlete by virtue of two Olympic gold medals, a host of world records and the top long jumps in U.S. history.

If the Atlanta Games - the 1996 Summer Olympics - are America's athletic oyster, JJK is the U. …

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