The Tokyo Olympic Games are underway and it’s set to be an exciting couple of weeks. The stakes are high and safety is of the utmost importance. In fact, several athletes have already bowed out of their events due to COVID-19 infection. The Olympic committee is doing everything it can to ensure the safety of all athletes, like Quanesha Burks.
Before Burks became a professional long jumper, her only previous job experience was at the McDonald’s in Hartselle, Alabama. She began her work experience there at the age of 17, often working weekdays and weekends on top of practice, track meets, and school. Burks and her siblings were raised by her grandparents, and she remembers living paycheck to paycheck.
She often started her days at 4:30 a.m., taking her grandmother to work at the nursing home. When she returned home, she woke her sisters, got them ready for school, and then dropped them off at school before taking herself to class. After school, Burks practiced and then headed to work., where she made $200 every two weeks. She contributed her paycheck to help out her family, and knew that all of this hard work was part of her path towards a college education.
How Did She Start As A Long Jumper?
Her high school coach convinced her to try long jumping one day and Burks never looked back. In fact, during her high school career, Burks set seven school records and was an 11-time high school state champion. According to Alabama Crimson Tide coach Dan Waters, Burks’ numbers weren’t quite at the caliber of most SEC full-scholarship athletes. After talking with her during the recruitment process, Waters realized how special Burks was. Regardless of her background, it was her determination that gained her a scholarship to Alabama. She would go on to become one of the most decorated athletes in Crimson Tide history.
Her Professional Career
Her professional career has not been a smooth path to glory. During the 2019 World Athletic Indoor Championships, she missed a podium placement by 0.04 meters (1.5 inches). Her grandfather passed away a week before the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. He was buried and she went to compete two days later, but did not record a successful jump. In February 2020, however, she won the U.S. Indoor title, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and wiped all future competitions and Olympic dreams away.
She earned points in the World Athletics’ ranking system, but she experienced a bone bruise on her femur, which sidelined her from competition for 11 weeks. Burks was able to get back to training and qualified for the U.S. Olympic team as a long jumper, alongside fellow greats Brittney Reese and Tara Davis. Both of those women have incredible accolades and impressive jump records. Reese won her 13th U.S. title with the U.S. Olympic Trials win this year, catapulting her into her fourth Olympic Games.
Burks feels that her story is very relatable, and hopes to inspire those who have big aspirations and lived through similar experiences. It’s all about the journey and setting your intentions, maintaining the proper mindset and determination. Burks said, “Never let other people dictate your success or how far you can go in life. If you believe in yourself, you have confidence in yourself, you can go far.” And that’s when Burks started saying, “I’m going to be an Olympian.”
Not only is Burks an Olympian, but she also has her eyes set on medaling in Tokyo. She’s looking for opportunity to capitalize on, and the Olympic Games may be the opportunity that she needs. Watch her compete in the women’s long jump during the Tokyo Olympic Games.