Leg ends Joyner-Kersee's golden run Bid for third straight heptathlon gold ends in pain in first event

Atlanta Olympics

July 28, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Jackie Joyner-Kersee's hamstring problems began earlier this year and flared up again here at last month's U.S. Olympic trials, when they contributed to her losing her first completed heptathlon since the 1984 Olympics and her first on American soil since 1983.

It was only a foreshadowing of what happened yesterday.

Going for her third straight Olympic gold medal, Joyner-Kersee reinjured the leg while running in the 110-meter hurdles, the opening event of the heptathlon, at Olympic Stadium. After consulting with her husband and coach Bobby Kersee, Joyner-Kersee pulled out of the event.

Joyner-Kersee, 34, could be seen pulling up, losing her stride and grimacing in pain after going over the last of 10 hurdles. Though she wound up first in her heat, Joyner-Kersee left the stadium hurriedly and in tears. Bobby Kersee said later that his wife will try to win her second Olympic long jump competition next week.

"In 72 hours, she's going to be ready to go out with the [hamstring] wrap and long jump," said Bobby Kersee.

Bobby Kersee said that he had to convince his wife that dropping out was in her best interest.

"I said, 'Listen here, I'm going to pull you out,' " Kersee said later. "She said, 'Bobby, don't pull me.' Then her husband stood up and said, 'That's enough. This is your husband talking. It's time for you to go.' "

The injury likely ends the most successful heptathlon career by the person many consider the world's greatest female athlete. Her world record of 7,291 points, set during the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, still stands. She also won four world championships, a gold medal in the long jump in Seoul, as well as a silver and bronze.

When news reached her competitors and fellow American Olympians, the reaction was the same.

"I heard about Jackie when I was in the blocks. It was a shock to me. I feel sorry for her. At the same time, life does go on," 400-meter runner Jearl Miles said. "Anything can happen at any time."

In Joyner-Kersee's case, it happened at the wrong time.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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