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Jackie Joyner-Kersee

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At World Championship 1987

Jackie Joyner-Kersee (born March 3, 1962) is generally considered as the best all-around female athlete in the world and the all-time greatest heptathlete. She has won three gold, one silver and one bronze Olympic medals. She was named after Jackie Kennedy. She lives in East St. Louis, Illinois.

Kersee was the first woman to score 7,000 points in a heptathlon event (during the 1986 Goodwill Games). She was inspired to compete in multi-discipline events after seeing a 1975 television movie about "Babe" Didrikson.

Jacqueline Joyner was born in East St. Louis, Illinois and went to UCLA, where she starred in both track and basketball. She is the sister-in-law of Florence Griffith Joyner. Her brother, Al Joyner, is also an Olympic gold medalist, having won the Olympic triple jump in 1984. Sports Illustrated voted her the greatest female athlete of the 20th century.

Along with the sudden death of her sister-in-law, Joyner-Kersee endured other great tragedies as a young child: When she was 11, she saw a man get killed. A few years later, she called her grandmother to talk, only to find out her grandmother too, had been killed. Also, when she was a freshman at UCLA, she suddenly had to return home when her 37-year-old mother contracted a rare form of meningitis. By the time she arrived, her mother was in a coma and brain dead. Since her father could not bring himself to have life support removed from his wife, it fell to Jackie and Al to authorize removal, which they did.

Perhaps her greatest challenge, however, was physical. She suffers from exercise-induced asthma, and on more than one occasion had to be hospitalized following an event.

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See also: Famous women in history

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