RIO GRANDE — A six-time Summer Olympic Games medalist is coming to Gallia County on Sunday.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee will serve as the keynote speaker for Gallia County’s 152nd Emancipation Celebration, the longest running celebration of its kind in the country. Joyner-Kersee will be on the main stage from 2-3 p.m. Sunday at Bob Evans Farms in Rio Grande.
“The Emancipation Celebration Committee is extremely excited to have someone of Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s notoriety to serve as our keynote speaker for this years event,” said Karen Sprague, treasurer and administrative assistant for the committee. “We feel her struggles to thrive as a female African American Olympic athlete, competing around the world at the top level in track and field, will transcend the fight for freedom that has gone on for many years and is what the Emancipation Celebration is all about.
“As our 2015 Emancipation Event theme states, we are ‘Building the Future by Celebrating the Past.’”
Dubbed “The Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century” by Sports Illustrated, Joyner-Kersee’s athletic accomplishments are world renowned. She competed in Summer Olympic Games in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996, amassing six medals, as well as four world championship titles. She is the world’s most decorated woman in U.S. Olympic track and field history.
In 1988, Joyner-Kersee became the only woman to win a gold medal in a multi-event and specialty event at the same Olympics when she earned gold in both the heptathlon and the long-jump. She is also the only woman to win two Olympic heptathlons (1988 and 1992).
Joyner-Kersee was the first woman in history to earn more than 7,000 points in the heptathlon. More than 20 years later, she still holds the world heptathlon record of 7,291 points.
Joyner-Kersee continues to maintain Olympic and national records in the long jump, and her 1994 performance in the long jump remains the second-longest in history. In addition to heptathlon and long jump, Jackie was a world class 100-meter and 200-meter competitor.
After a decorated All-American career in women’s college basketball at UCLA, she eventually played professional basketball for a short time.
While many people know of her athletic accomplishments, not many are aware of her work and accomplishments away from the spotlight, such as her work as a philanthropist and advocate for children’s education, health issues — especially asthma, an affliction from which she has suffered her entire life — racial equality, social reform and women’s rights. Joyner-Kersee is known to say that she “strives to be a Jackie of all trades.”
“We are looking forward to meeting Jackie and hearing of her experiences of being a world renowned athlete,” Sprague said, “not to mention her tireless efforts and remarkable accomplishments off the field as a philanthropist and advocate for children’s education, racial equality, social reform and women’s rights.”
Joyner-Kersee has received many awards, including the St. Louis Ambassadors Sportswoman of the Year — she was born in 1962 in East St. Louis, Ill. — Sporting News Athlete of the Year Award (the first woman to receive either of these awards), the Sullivan Award (top amateur athlete in the U.S.), and consecutively winning the Jesse Owens Memorial Award (top U.S. track and field athlete).
Past speakers have included such people as the Rev. Jesse Jackson (1998), Tuskegee Airman Charles E. McGee (2004) and Justice Yvette McGee Brown (2013), the first African American female justice on the Ohio Supreme Court.
Gallia County’s Emancipation Celebration begins Friday at the Ariel-Dater Hall with a homecoming and celebration concert, and lasts all day Saturday and into Sunday, ending with Joyner-Kersee’s keynote address.
Reach Michael Johnson at 740-446-2342, ext. 2102, or on Twitter @OhioEditorMike.