Jackie Joyner-Kersee Honored by International Olympic Committee

March 9, 2007

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Three-time Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller received IOC awards Thursday for promoting the role of women in sport.

Joyner-Kersee, a six-time Olympic medallist, received the Americas trophy for conveying values to young people through her establishment of a youth foundation.

The American was cited for helping young people "prepare for their role in society, driven by guiding principles such as character and leadership, teamwork and dignity."

She created a foundation in 1998 that raised US$12 million to build the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in her hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois. The center offers more than 30 programs in education, culture, arts, sports and fitness, health and life skills for young people aged 6 to 18 with a major focus on girls.

"Through the foundation I'm able to reach the under-served, and also work with young people that somehow don't believe they can go to the next level," Joyner-Kersee said. "That level for me was the Olympic Games. For someone else it might just be going to first grade . . . or just being able to live a day-to-day life without being killed.

"I really embrace sports because it teaches us about discipline, the desire, the determination, the dedication to never give up on life."

Joyner-Kersee won the long jump and heptathlon at Seoul in 1988, and claimed a second heptathlon Olympic title at Barcelona in 1992. She also collected three other Olympic medals.

Simpson Miller, elected Jamaica's first female prime minister in March 2006, was awarded the Women and Sport "world trophy" in a ceremony at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

"I am convinced that sport is a critical important vehicle for the empowerment of women and the acceleration of sustainable development," Simpson Miller said after receiving the award from IOC president Jacques Rogge. "Let the chains be broken and the barriers removed so women can move forward and make the world complete, strong and invincible."

Simpson Miller was appointed minister for sport in 1989 and later became one of the first world leaders to sign the World Anti-Doping Code.

"Her personal leadership . . . has clearly supported the development of women's sporting activities in Jamaica," the International Olympic Committee said. "As a result, more and more women are being elected to the decision-making bodies of the national sport federations."

Six awards -- one for each continent and one at world level -- were bestowed at the ceremony, which coincided with International Women's Day.

Palestinian Naila Shatara-Kharroub, a pioneer in establishing and developing physical education for girls in Palestine since 1979, was awarded the Asia trophy.

Fridah Bilha Shiroya, treasurer of Kenya's national Olympic committee, won the Africa trophy for strengthening women's role in Kenyan sport. Ilse Bechthold, chair of the IAAF Women's Committee since 1981 and member of the IOC Women and Sport Commission, won the trophy for Europe as a role model for young female sport leaders.

Veitu Apana Diro, vice-president of the Papua New Guinea National Olympic Committee, won the Oceania award.

Since 2000, the winners have been selected annually by the IOC Women and Sport Commission, chaired by U.S. IOC member Anita DeFrantz.


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