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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

Joyner-Kersee Seeks Rebirth in Long Jump

Track and field: She qualifies for the final on one jump after dropping out of the heptathlon because of an injury.

August 02, 1996|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — Jackie Joyner-Kersee's last Olympic stand--actually one giant leap on a sore right leg--was good enough Thursday to qualify her for today's long-jump final.

Joyner-Kersee, forced out of last weekend's heptathlon because a hamstring injury, made one jump of 21 feet 11 3/4 inches, the exact distance she needed to automatically qualify.

Joyner-Kersee, 34, finished sixth in her group. She is the world-record holder at 24-7 and is presumably competing in her last Olympics.

"I feel pretty good," Joyner-Kersee said. "The hamstring's a little sore, but I'm just going to take it one jump at a time."

Joyner-Kersee said she did not feel comfortable on an Olympic Stadium field slicked by rain.

"I was very timid because it rained," she said.

Bob Kersee, her husband and coach, was more emphatic.

"Jackie hates the rain," he said. "She loves hot. If it's 120 degrees, she loves it that much better."

But come rain or shine, today will probably mark the end of her illustrious career.

"This is it for Jackie," Bob Kersee said. "She knows this is probably her last long-jump competition in the Olympic Games. If she's out there with a leg and a half, she's going to jump."

Like Carl Lewis, her male counterpart in the long jump, Joyner-Kersee hopes to go out with one last blaze.

She is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, winning the heptathlon in 1988 and 1992, and the long jump in 1988.

When she dropped out of last weekend's heptathlon, she lost the chance to tie Bonnie Blair's American female record for most gold medals, five.

Kersee said there is only a slight chance Jackie could return for the Sydney Games.

"She's 34," Kersee said. "It's obvious that there's not too many 38-year-olds out there running, jumping or throwing. For some reason, in 2000, if she thinks she can still jump, she'll probably be at another Olympic Games. But that's not the plan."

Kersee expects it will take a leap of more than 22-11 3/4 to win the gold, and that Jackie is capable of leaping as far as 23-7 1/2 if her leg holds out.

"We're going after the gold medal," Bob Kersee said. "But just to make that jump to get into the final, that took heart. She's just an iron woman with an iron spirit."

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