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On Saturday morning all was well. It helped that Joyner-Kersee's take-off knee in the long jump was her good one. On her first try, she would say later, "the run and take-off were fine, but I over-rotated in the air." That meant she didn't keep her legs up as long as she would have liked. Still, the jump was 23'10�", worth a heptathlon-world-record 1,264 points and a women's Olympic long-jump mark. In one pop she had all but settled the issue of winning and returned to within 11 points of her record pace.
However, she gave almost all of it back in the javelin. Joyner-Kersee usually throws more than 160 feet, but she could do no better than 149'10". That cost her 86 points. "It was disgusting," she said. "The knee was sore. I wasn't using the legs. I was just arming it."
"She was apologetic after the javelin," said Kersee, "even though the timing was impossible with that knee. It's like she has a promise with the fans to give her best."
"I always think about 1984," says Jackie, who, running injured, missed winning the heptathlon in L.A. by five points. "So many people gave me so much support after not winning, I wanted to give something back. I thought of that as I went to the line in the 800."
She walked there with a wan smile. To break the record by a point, she needed to run a 2:13.67. Her best time, set six long years ago at age 20, was 2:09.32. "I knew I was in 2:10 shape," she said. "And I'd always said that when the time came, I'd be able to do it."
Joyner-Kersee went out with revealing power. Heptathletes, who have to have the muscle to throw things, usually don't look at home in the 800. But Joyner-Kersee ran with an elegant, driving precision. "I wanted a 62-second pace at the 400," she recalled, "and to run my own race." That meant start fast and suffer through a long last lap.
The U.S.S.R.'s Natalya Shubenkova led at the 400 in 62.63. Joyner-Kersee was about a second behind. "With a lap to go, my stomach started to burn," she said. "I thought, Oh, no, what's this? Block it out, block it out. If your legs aren't burning, you can still run."
The three East Germans—John, Anke Behmer, and Ines Schulz—began to pull away on the last backstretch. Could Joyner-Kersee keep up? Yes, she could. "With 200 to go I felt strong," she said. "I even got impatient. I wanted to go on by them. But then I thought. Now, Jackie, you are a long way from done."
Not so long. She rolled through the turn and down the stretch with effort but not agony. "I think it's actually easier running faster," she would say. Although she finished fifth, she crossed the line in 2:08.51, which got her a world-record heptathlon score of 7,291 points.
"So, what do you want to do tomorrow?" Jackie asked Bob.