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From McDonald’s to the Olympics: How Quanesha Burks made the long jump to Tokyo


Olympian Quanesha Burks has been waiting for this moment since she was in high school. The 26-year-old Alabama native is heading to the Tokyo Olympics, where she will compete in the long jump.

“I feel like I’m still on cloud nine right now, because so much has happened since the [Olympic] essays, “she told CBS News in an interview in Louisiana on Wednesday.” But I’m so excited to represent our country and really put on a big stage show. “

From McDonald’s to the Olympics: How Quanesha Burks made the long jump to Tokyo
Quanesha Burks of the United States competes in the women’s long jump during the Glasgow Indoor Grand Prix Track and Field competition at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow on February 25, 2018.

ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP via Getty Images


Burks qualified for the Games after placing third at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., Which she called intense “pre-Olympic” competition. She was fearless in the moment, partly because of all the preparation – and partly, because her path to greatness was not easy.

“I’m excited to really go out there and show my talent and know it’s my time now,” she said. “And I know my place is here, I worked hard to get here.”

Burks and her two sisters, aged 11 and 13, were raised by her grandparents and she worked to support her family while in high school. A typical day would then look like: Driving her “Grammy” to work at 4.30am, coming home to prepare her younger sisters for school, dropping them off, going to class herself, attending track and field training or basketball, have her work 4 pm to 10 pm at McDonald’s and finish her homework every time she comes home.

Whenever she didn’t have a weekend track and field competition or basketball tournament, she worked at the fast food chain early in the morning. After teaming up with USA, Burks triumphantly made his way to the Olympics known.

Burks was earning $ 200 every two weeks at McDonald’s along with life skills, but she said it was “more than a job” for her.

“It was to help my family in all financial ways,” she said. “And that was my goal, like he’s always been taller than me.”

Originally, Burks didn’t want to try the long jump, but after her high school coach convinced her to try it, she never looked back. And after learning that sports could also be her ticket to college, Burks was even more motivated as she would be the first in her family to attend.

“My family is proud of me for graduating from high school, but I wanted more,” she said. “And I have two little sisters who admire me. So athletics was an opportunity for me.”

According to her bio Olympian page, she was 11 times state champion in high school athletics. She eventually got a full ride to the University of Alabama and graduated.

As she continued to work towards making her Olympic dreams come true, she thanks her grandparents for supporting her. His grandfather, Fred Williams, died in 2019 just before testing in the United States.

“Grandpa would keep me humble, but he would brag about me to so many people,” she said. “After his death, I received so many messages … [his manager] Reached out to me and she said, ‘Hey, you don’t know me, but you’re awesome. I liked it. He always bragged about you. Everytime.'”

Death has hit Burks hard, but she knows he will be there in Tokyo.

“My grandfather will always be there in spirit,” she said. “And it’s like you have a first class ticket with me.”

Earlier this year, Burks was battling a bone spur injury that cast doubt on his Olympic dreams. However, her mental strength remained and continued to “express it into existence” – believing that she could achieve her goal.

“Never let others dictate your success or how far you can go in life. If you believe yourself, you have confidence in yourself, you can go far,” she said. “So I just started saying it, ‘I’m going to be an Olympian.'”

Burks is not only an Olympian, but she also hopes to win a medal in Tokyo.

“All I need are opportunities,” she said. “If I have an opportunity, I will take it.”

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