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News

Be resilient, visiting Olympian advises students

October 18, 2021

Professor Greg Barron, left, moderated a discussion with Olympic track and field legend Jackie Jo...Professor Greg Barron, left, moderated a discussion with Olympic track and field legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee and 2011 Carthage alumnus Daniel Orlando Diaz of NBCUniversal on Oct. 14, 2021. The event was part of the Spotlight on Sports series.

When she paid an inspiring visit to Carthage in mid-October, Jackie Joyner-Kersee spoke as an Olympic legend. But the woman Sports Illustrated named the greatest female athlete of the 20th century also emphasized the low points that she overcame to reach that pinnacle.

“My story really is what I learned when I wasn’t triumphant,” she said.

The three-time gold medalist pointed to the struggles she faced in college, from dealing with asthma to her mother’s unexpected death. By learning to be resilient, she said, students can find themselves and appreciate the good even more.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee visited Carthage in October 2021, giving se...Three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee visited Carthage in October 2021, giving several presentations including this talk at the 150 Years of Carthage Women closing celebration.The main event in her visit Oct. 14 and 15 was a public interview alongside Carthage alumnus Daniel Orlando Diaz ’11, director of World Cup and Olympic partnerships at NBCUniversal, for the Spotlight on Sports speaker series. They shared their unique insights into the recent Tokyo Olympics and looked ahead to the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. 

“I look forward to being back at the Olympics in person and finding new ways for the world to watch,” said Mr. Diaz. “I’m also excited to see what the athletes have in store for us.”

Ms. Joyner-Kersee’s appearances at Carthage also included:

  • a more intimate, equity and inclusion-focused Q&A with students and staff where she talked about being a strong Black woman in today’s society.
  • a discussion with the Firebirds’ track and field teams where she told stories of her Olympic days (highlighted by a 1988 world record in the heptathlon that still stands).
  • an encouraging speech at the 150 Years of Carthage Women closing celebration.

After her athletic career, Ms. Joyner-Kersee became an active advocate for children’s education, racial equality, social reform, and women’s rights. In the face of stress, she advised students to lean on others in their circle.

“College is about finding a community where you can explore and experience things together,” she said. “But never hesitate to pick up the phone and call home.”