Imagine getting soccer tips from Pele or boxing secrets from Muhammad Ali.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee will present a comparable fantasy for local athletes June 7-9, when she will be the featured instructor for a track and field camp at Mercer County High School (originally planned at Henry Clay).
As Pele is to soccer and Ali is to boxing, so is Joyner-Kersee to track and field — simply the best.
She competed in four Olympics, specializing in the heptathlon and long jump.
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In the heptathlon, she earned a silver medal in the 1984 Games at Los Angeles, then struck gold in 1988 at Seoul and in 1992 at Barcelona. Her 7,291 points at the 1988 Olympics remains the world record.
In the long jump, she won gold in 1988, then took bronzes in 1992 and in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
For all her athletic ability, though, pure grit may have been Joyner-Kersee's most important asset. Just listen to her when asked about her favorite Olympic memory.
"All the moments have been great because I have experience both on the high note — an Olympic champion — and then also struggling with injuries," she said during a phone interview from her home in St. Louis. "I think '96 for me was very, very telling as far as my career was concerned because I'm always stressing to young people 'never give up.' And even though I had a world record, I had gold medals and I could have walked away from Atlanta, I stayed with it.
"Because regardless of what other people might have thought ... I believed I could still win. And I think having that attitude really afforded me that Olympic bronze medal, and that medal meant a lot to me because I didn't give up.
"Winning gold medals, yes, that's the ultimate. But today, to make one Olympic team, two, three and four and still try to compete at the highest level really, to me, says a lot about your commitment and your desire to want to be out there."
Having Joyner-Kersee work with kids in Kentucky was the suggestion of Lexington's Sharrieffa Barksdale, a 1984 Olympian and former American record-holder in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles.
Olympic teammates, they have been friends ever since, said Barksdale, who also will be a clinic instructor. Joyner-Kersee continues to work with athletes from the grassroots to elite levels. Barksdale also coaches and has served as a USA Track & Field administrator, including as assistant manager of the 2008 Olympic team. Joyner-Kersee's husband and coach, Bobby Kersee, will not be here.
"We hope that the kids will learn how to sprint better and (improve) their form," Barksdale said.
Besides sprint technique, the camp will focus on hurdles, jumps and throws. National-class javelin thrower Dana Pounds of Lexington will be on the staff, as will former George Mason coach Angela Taylor and body-builder Demetrius Robinson.
Technique counts for more than one might think, Joyner-Kersee said.
She recalled, early in her career, when her husband-coach told her that she was a world record-holder, but "the world's just got to wait and see."
Not even she believed a world record was possible until Bobby broke down the heptathlon event by event. He said she was "jumping 6 feet to clear 5-8 because of poor technique" in the high jump. Although Jane Frederick, another elite heptathlete of the era, was beating Joyner-Kersee by more than a second in the hurdles, Joyner-Kersee could outrun Frederick by more than a second in the 200 meters.
"If I put barriers in front of you, she can outrun you," Bobby Kersee said. "But if the barrier's not there, you would leave her. That's technique."
"So I'm like, 'Ohhh!'" Joyner-Kersee said. "Then I started understanding why technique was so important. It wasn't about how fast I was going to run, it was about mastering the technique."
Which, on a simpler level, is what the clinic at Mercer County is all about: mastering technique.
"When I hear kids say today, 'Well, I ran fast running like this,' I say, 'I don't care how fast you ran running like that,'" Joyner-Kersee said. "'When you run up against somebody with equal talent and they've got better technique, they're going to beat you.'"
The camp will have split sessions each day: 9 a.m.-noon for ages 7-11, and 1-4 p.m. for ages 12-18. Cost for three days is $300, and $200 for coaches. Some scholarships may be available.
For more information, call Barksdale at (859) 519-7131, or e-mail at Blairs3833@yahoo.com.