By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Jackie Joyner-Kersee hasn’t slowed down in retirement.
Not by a long shot.
After a three-hour Board of Directors meeting for USA Track & Field on Sunday morning, she was in Joplin by 6:30 p.m. to speak at Mercy Joplin’s Evening with the Pros.
After a scheduled 7:30 p.m. keynote address, Joyner-Kersee was flying to Edwardsville, Ill., where she will begin this morning helping with the World Youth Track & Field Trials.
“I just realize that I’ve been blessed. A lot of people believed in me and helped me. And what better way for me to give back?” she said on Sunday. “I’m glad I can help and serve that purpose to someone and maybe inspire them to go on and reach whatever goals they have set for themselves.”
The Sunday event was part of Mercy Joplin’s LPGA Pro-Am Golf Classic. The banquet and golf tournament — which is today at Eagle Creek — help raise funds for the hospital’s mobile mammography unit.
“I’m very blessed and I’m very honored to be here and be talking and helping raise funds to help women,” Joyner-Kersee said. “For me to be here and support and help raise funds, I’m honored.”
Joyner-Kersee won three gold, one silver and two bronze Olympic medals, beginning at the 1988 Seoul games and finishing at Atlanta’s 1996 Olympics. She won two golds and a silver in the heptathlon and a gold and two bronzes in the long jump.
In addition to serving on USA Tracks Board of Directors, she still stays involved with the sport by mentoring young athletes.
“I’m there to give advice but I’m also there to listen, in hopes that we can see how to improve our sport and make it easier on the athletes,” she said. “Track is my passion and my heart and soul, so I’ve always seen the bright side (of USA track), even when, in other people’s eyes, it doesn’t look too promising.”
Joyner-Kersee said she planned to talk to the crowd about resiliency, noting that a trip through Joplin made it clear that the message would be well received.
“Coming to Joplin and going through and seeing how resilient the community has been,” she said. “That’s what it takes when you’re trying to reach people; you have to be resilient.
“I also want to get people re-introduced with who I am and why I do what I do. For me, it’s really about your spirit and being bold in your decisions and being brave in your actions. And to surround that with goal-setting and dreams.”
She said much of her time outside of track is spent working with young people and mentoring programs and especially health-related organizations, such as urban farming groups.
“I think it’s so important when you talk about a lack of funds and providing a need,” Joyner-Kersee said, tying her experiences in with the main goal of Sunday’s event. “You fill a void for people who might not have the resources to get the mammogram and it’s so important. I see my life evolving and there are building blocks and they’re linked together in the things I do.”