On This Day: Jackie Joyner-Kersee Changes The (Long Jump) Game

Can you name the only American women to soar 7.20m (23-7½) or better in the long jump?

Here’s a hint: There are three.

Give up?

It’s Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Marion Jones and Brittney Reese.

Now, go ahead and name the only American woman to do so until 1998.

We’ll accept two answers here: The G.O.A.T. or Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

It was on this date 34 years ago that Joyner-Kersee (then known as Jackie Joyner) absolutely demolished the American record in the long jump at Weltklasse Zurich, which is now part of the IAAF Diamond League circuit.

Back on August 21, 1985, Joyner-Kersee was just a few months removed from wrapping up her illustrious collegiate career at UCLA. In her final collegiate meet, the 1985 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Joyner-Kersee earned five All-America honors as she finished runner-up in both the 400 Hurdles and the triple jump, third in the 100 Hurdles and as a member of the fourth-place 4×100 Relay and fifth-place 4×400 Relay.

This story, however, is about what she did in Zurich, Switzerland.

The former American record didn’t stand a chance, not with Joyner-Kersee and 1985 NCAA champion Carol Lewis in the field. Joyner-Kersee flew 7.24m (23-9) to top the old standard of 7.00m (23-7½) by more than two inches and finish runner-up to Heike Dreschler from East Germany. Lewis ended up fifth with a best mark of 7.04m (23-1¼), which was also superior to the old American record.

Based on when Joyner-Kersee achieved that mark, it stands as the current All-Dates, All-Time Collegiate Best. Only Chelsea Hayes of Louisiana Tech has come within six inches of that mark at 7.10m (23-3½) back in 2012 at the U.S. Olympic Trials.