Yolanda Gail Devers was born on Saturday, November 19, 1966 in Seattle, Washington. As a little girl, she moved to National City, California. There she attended Sweetwater High School and graduated with the class of 1984. In high school her main sport was track and field and originally she ran the 800m. Gail was heavily recruited by major universities, but decided to go to UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles). That is where she met Bob Kersee , husband and coach of famous track and field star Jackie Joyner-Kersee. She joined their track team where the 100-meter dash and 100-meter hurdles became her top events. She also got her Bachelor’s degree in sociology.
After college, Gail started her track career with the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. From that point, Gail became a huge success. She never saw herself as being a professional track runner; she always thought that she would become a teacher. Gail is indorsed by Nike and is an “I Love Lucy Addict”.
Gail’s first major influence was her bother Parenthesis “PD”. They used to race each other all the time and PD would always beat her. After he did, he would make fun of her like the typical big brother. She decided there and then that she wasn’t having it. She practiced everyday and worked as hard as she could. The next time they raced she beat him and he never wanted to race her again. She decided that running was all that mattered to her. Her basic influences are everybody she runs against and herself. She is always trying to beat her records and pushes herself to do so.
She was a national standout in the 100m dash and 100m hurdles, breaking the American record in the 100m hurdles in 1988. 1988 was also the year that saw Gail qualify for her first of five Olympic Games as well as face her first medical challenge. While training for the 1988 Games in Seoul, her health began to deteriorate. She suffered from migraine headaches, sleeplessness, fainting spells and frequent vision loss. What should have been a shining moment for her as an athlete ended up being one of the most challenging times of her life. After a series of misdiagnoses, she was finally accurately diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition.
(Diversity City Media)
Gail had severe Graves Disease from 1989-91. The disease is a severe type of hypertension. She went through migraine, vision loss, and fainting spells. No one knew what was wrong with her and she blamed her conditions on her overworking herself. When she finally was diagnosed with the disease, she had to go through radiation and take pills to make her feel better. She reacted to the radiation in a negative way, which resulted in having her feet swollen and cracked that they bled. Doctors said they would have to amputate her feet. At this point Gail felt like this was the end for her but her coach, Bob Kersee, motivated her to stay strong. He said that she had too much God-given talented to give up and she needed to realize this. Gail kept taking the medications prescribed to her and did whatever she had to do to get better. Less than 17 months after the doctors announced the amputation, she was back to training. She is still on medication to control her symptoms.
While it was a relief to finally know the cause, the lapsed time had led to more health problems in the preceding years. But between her “never say quit” attitude, medical treatments and dedicated rehabilitation, Gail was able to recover in time to not only qualify for the 1992 Olympic Games, but also capture her first gold medal by winning the 100m dash. She was also a favorite to win the 100m hurdles at those Games and was leading the field until falling over the final hurdle, finishing fifth. Gail continued her winning ways the next year, winning both the 100m dash and 100m hurdles at the 1993 World Championships, a feat that hadn’t been achieved in 45 years. She went on to win her second gold in the 100m dash at the 1996 Olympics where she also ran on the winning 4x100m relay.
(Diversity City Media)
Career Highlights :
2004 – Won 10th national championship in 100mH at US Olympic trials
– Became 3rd American athlete in history to make 5 Olympic track and field teams
– 1st American in history to win both 60m and 60mH at USATF Indoor T&F Championship
2003 – World indoor 60mH champion
– 1st place US Outdoors 100mH
– Ranked #1 in the world at 100mH
2002 – USA Outdoors 100mH champion
– Won 100mH at World Cup
– Ranked #1 in the wolrd at 100mH
2001 – Ranked #1 in the world at 100mH
– 1st place 100mH at Goodwill Games in Brisbane, Australia
2000 – Wins 100mH at US Olympic trails in Sacremento, CA setting a new American record (12.33)4th fastest
in event ever
1999 – USATF’s Humanitarian Athlete of the Year
– World champion in 100mH in Seville, Spain (New Record: 12.37)
– Anchor on winning 4×100 at World Championships
In the women’s 100-meter hurdles at the 2000 Olympics, Devers was favored to finally win a medal that had eluded her for so long. But she stopped midway through her semifinal with a left hamstring tear and did not finish the race. It was the latest chapter in the hard-luck Olympic saga of Devers, who just missed out on medals at the 1992 and 1996 games.
“I don’t think luck has anything to do with track and field. I think it’s skill,” she said. “I’d say my skills were not good enough to keep me going tonight. And that’s the end of the story.”
Devers has been one of the world’s best hurdlers for the past decade, but has never won a medal in Olympic hurdles. All three of her gold medals at the Barcelona and Atlanta games — including two 100-meter titles — came in sprints.
“My aim was to make it to the final and give it my all until the leg falls off,” she said. “Is this a jinx? Is this ’92 all over again? No. I have the utmost faith and belief in God and my spirituality, and I know he had plans for me.”
(ESPN Internet Ventures)
She had a successful 2004 indoor season, as she became the first American athlete in history to win both the 60m and 60m hurdles at a USA Indoor Track & Field Championships…she continued her gold medal streak in the World Indoors 60m clocking in 7.08 seconds, her fastest time of the year and the second-fastest time in the world in 2004. She won a silver medal in the 60m hurdles (7.78)…had a tremendous season in 2003 winning both the USA and World indoor 60m hurdles titles, and breaking her own American record in the semifinals at USA Indoors (7.74 seconds), after she had set the record earlier that season at the Millrose Games (7.78)… After years of being coached by Bobby Kersee, Devers in 2002 began coaching herself. “It’s just me, a seven-pound Pomeranian and God on the track” when she is working out. Practices start against her Pomeranian, Kaleb…she is still looking for a perfect race in which she does not hit a hurdle…unlike some hurdlers, Devers is affected by hitting the barriers – “even during my American record, I hit a hurdle. I’d like to see what happens when I have a clean race”