ROME — Jackie Joyner-Kersee, applauded in Moscow last year, has Rome in the palm of her hand, and the Orient is waiting for her.
After the first day of heptathlon competition of track and field's World Championships, Joyner-Kersee is on a whirlwind, world-record pace.
She is, of course, the world record-holder, having first broken it in the Moscow Goodwill Games in July of 1986 with 7,148 points, then improving on it by 10 points a month later at the Olympic Festival in Houston.
The ultimate goal, though, is the gold medal next year in the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.
On a warm Monday at Olympic Stadium, she compiled 4,256 points after four of the seven events, breaking the first-day record of 4,151 that she established at Moscow.
She set a U.S. high jump record for a heptathlete with a leap of 6 feet 2 3/4 inches and recorded a personal best mark of 52-6 in the shotput.
Joyner-Kersee was also timed in 12.91 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, and early in the evening of day-long competition, she blazed around a turn to win her heat of the 200 meters in 22.95 seconds.
She is 111 points ahead of her first-day performance in Moscow, and 105 on the plus side compared to Houston.
Joyner-Kersee will come back today to wrap it up in the long jump, javelin and 800 meters. She shares the world record in the long jump, 24-5 1/2 with East Germany's Heike Dreschler. That will be another challenge for her when they meet in direct competition starting Thursday with trials.
She has struggled some in the javelin in the past but seems more confident now. If she is almost assured of taking her own record up to another plateau after the long jump and javelin, she will probably be content to just run comfortably in the 800, the concluding event.
Barring injury, Joyner-Kersee already has the gold medal here. Her closest pursuer is Larisa Nikitina of the Soviet Union, who trails the leader by 338 points.
Any gold would be appreciated by the U.S. men and women. After three days of competition, the United States has only three medals, none of them gold.
John Brenner got a bronze in the shotput Saturday, Carl Lewis got a silver in the 100 meters Sunday and Mike Conley added another silver Monday in the triple jump.
By comparison, the American team had 10 medals in the first three days in the inaugural World Championships in 1983 at Helsinki, Finland.
It isn't all that bleak, though, because Edwin Moses will be favored today to get a gold medal in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles along with Joyner-Kersee.
Conley had to settle for a silver medal because Bulgaria's Khristo Markov soared 58-9 1/2 in the triple jump, the second longest jump of all time. Only Willie Banks, at 58-11 1/2, has jumped farther. Conley, who usually saves his best jumps for last, couldn't catch up this time, although his second-place effort of 57-11 3/4 was hardly shabby.
When Joyner-Kersee was finally finished in a day that began at 9:30 a.m. with the 100-meter hurdles and ended at 7 p.m. with the 200 meters, she was asked to sum up her performance.
"Hard work," she said, smiling.
Joyner-Kersee has been frustrated with some her of shotput efforts in heptathlons. She knew what she had to do but couldn't put it together in competition.
She had planned to make only one attempt. However, when she opened up with 51-6, she stayed in the competition until she nailed 52-6.
"I understand now that I have to go across the ring slowly," she said. "There were times when I would think that I had to go across fast and I ended up not getting any height or using my legs and that's where all the strength comes from."
Joyner-Kersee works with Art Venegas, UCLA's weight coach.
"I'm very pleased with the shot today," she said. "Art worked a lot with me. I'd hit 50 feet in practice and then I'd go into a meet and throw 48 or 49.
"He got on my back and said I'd have to concentrate and understand what I'm doing there. He told me but I wasn't seeing it. And today I reached my goal of 16 meters."
She also worked recently with Brenner while training at Lake Como, Italy, and realized that the more deliberate approach across the ring was the best.
But even Joyner-Kersee has lapses. She said that she had one in the high jump Monday.
"I was just out there, but I wasn't competing at first," she said. "When I missed at 1.84 meters (6-0 1/2), I really got upset at myself. At that point it really motivated me and then I focused on what I had to do."
Joyner-Kersee is trying to absorb seven events like a sponge. She writes notes to herself so that she'll remember certain techniques.
"I also write down that anything is possible if you believe in yourself," she said. "I know when I get into competition, I can't talk to my coach."
Her coach is her husband, Bob Kersee, who also coaches the UCLA women's track team.
Joyner-Kersee has specific goals and she said that she came into the World Championship meet with the thought of scoring anywhere from 7,161 points to 7,200.