Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Wilma Rudolph each set the world on fire with their Olympic performances. Without gloating, each dedicated their lives to inspiring others through their foundations; and now, Joyner Kersee released a children’s book to help kids understand they can turn the impossible into probable. She launched her book tour at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 25, 2023 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — One had polio, one had asthma. Both defied racial discrimination. Both went on to win Olympic gold. This is the story of Wilma Rudolph and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. A couple of athletes who defied the odds, gave Black women a voice, and inspired a nation.
There wasn’t a lot of glamour or even acceptance when Jackie Joyner-Kersee started to run. She was fortunate to have a community center at which she could run on a dirt track. Then there was the matter of having asthma (a lung disease that narrows airways and causes shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing).
“I wasn’t good in my first race,” she told an auditorium full of school children. “But I kept at it and I thought if I could keep at it and continue to go to different track and field meets, I’d get better. Eventually, I got into a rhythm and realized that the top three finishers got hardware (medals) and decided I had to learn how to get on the podium so I could get medals to go with all the different ribbons I had,” said Joyner-Kersee. That determination and hard work has her ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in the heptathlon as well as the long jump. She won three gold, one silver and two bronze Olympic medals in those events while competing at four separate Olympic Games in the 1980s and 90s.
As decorated as she is, the humble athlete with a huge, beautiful smile is quick to credit another track star who ran a couple of decades before she did. Wilma Rudolph was a sprinter who was dubbed the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s, which was shocking considering she had polio as a child and doctors didn’t think it would be possible for her to walk—let alone run! Yet, Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympics.
Rudolph once stated, “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”
Joyner-Kersee couldn’t agree more as she talked about Rudolph while standing next to a bronze statue of her idol in the Old National Bank Avenue of Champions within Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
Joyner-Kersee chose Indianapolis and the world’s largest children’s museum as the place to launch her new children’s book, “Running for the Gold – Connecting Kids to Dreams” because she loves The Children’s Museum. She also has fond memories of competing in Indianapolis, where she tied the world record in the long jump at 7.45 meters at the 1987 Pan American Games.
She wrote the children’s book to inspire kids to believe in themselves and overcome challenges just as she did. “I believe in meeting people where they are, but being able to encourage them to believe the impossible is probable,” she said. “And to just be here, it really lifts my spirits and gives me the energy, the motivation, I’m honored.”
As a member of the board of USA Track and Field, Joyner-Kersee is committed to providing more opportunities and development for young athletes. She is also a founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, which encourages young people in East St. Louis to pursue athletics and academics.
Kimberly Robinson, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, 317-809-5203, [email protected]
SOURCE The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis