Running a personal record of 2:08.51 Saturday in the last of her seven events, the 800 meters, Jackie Joyner-Kersee broke her own world record in the heptathlon and won the Olympic gold medal that eluded her in 1984.
Tired and hurt, she ran the 800 more than 5 seconds faster than necessary to break her previous record of 7,215 points.
She finished with 7,290 points, which was 394 more than the 6,897 scored by the runner-up, East Germany’s Sabine John. Another East German, Anke Behmer, was third with 6858, 413 points behind Joyner-Kersee.
It was the greatest margin of victory ever in an Olympic women’s multi-event competition. The Soviet Union’s Irina Press won the five-event pentathlon in 1964 by 211 points.
In the first year of the Olympic heptathlon, 1984, Joyner-Kersee won the silver medal after finishing five points behind Australia’s Glynnis Nunn.
Joyner-Kersee now has broken the world record four times since 1986. No other woman has scored more than 7,000 points. Joyner-Kersee has done it five times.
It also was the United States’ first track and field gold medal of the Olympics.
After the first four events Friday, Joyner-Kersee began Saturday 103 points behind her world-record pace. She made up all but 11 of them in the long jump.
Formerly the co-holder of the world record and the 1987 world champion in the open long jump, she set the heptathlon long jump world record on her first jump, 23-feet 10-inches.
That also is an Olympic record for the open long jump, beating the 23-feet 2-inches jumped by the Soviet Union’s Tatiana Kolpakova to win the 1980 Olympic gold medal.
Conserving energy and protecting herself against further injury, Joyner-Kersee did not take her last two jumps.
But the tendinitis in her left knee, which she aggravated in the high jump Friday, apparently was bothering her again in the sixth event, the javelin. Her least consistent event even when she’s healthy, the best of her three throws was only 149-feet 10-inches.
That left her 912 points short of the world record and needing to run a 2:13.67 in the final event, her least favorite, the 800 meters. Joyner-Kersee ran faster than that the first two times she broke the world record in 1986, but she ran only 2:20.70 when she broke the record in July at the U.S. Olympic trials.
“You’re going to have to run (the 800) now, baby,” she was told by her coach, and husband, Bob Kersee, after the javelin throw.
Of the seven events, Joyner-Kersee was outstanding in four. In addition to her world-record long jump Saturday, she set an American heptathlon record Friday in the 100-meter hurdles in 12.69 seconds.
Also on Friday, she had the second-best shot put (51-feet 10-inches) and the second- best 200 meters (22.56 seconds) of her career. Her high jump (6-feet 1-inches Friday and her javelin throw Saturday were not up to her standards.