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Quanesha Burks

Source: Oliver Hardt / Getty

Thousands of inspiring stories are being told as athletes from around the globe are converging on Tokyo, for this year’s Olympic games. One of them comes from Quanesha Burks, a former McDonald’s employee turned Olympian.

According to Sports Illustrated, Burks began working at McDonald’s as a way to help her family pay bills and save to be able to attend college. Even though she was only earning about $100 a week, she considered it the best job ever because it was going to help reach her goals.

Friends encouraged Burks to get into sports, basketball and track specifically. One friend bought her a pair of cleats. That’s when Burks realized athletics could get her to school as well.

“I remember looking up the requirements to earn a full scholarship and I wrote those goals down. I jumped 20 feet and that’s when everything changed.”

Eventually, college coaches started taking notice, but Burks proved to be a bit hard to track down. She frequently missed visits and phone calls from prospective coaches because of her work schedule at McDonald’s.

Thankfully, people were willing to wait for her.

Burks was graduating high school with 11 state titles including ones in the 100 meters, long jump and triple long jump sweep.

She went on to attend Alabama University, the first in her family to go to college.

In 2015 and 2016, she won NCAA long jump titles, but her career hasn’t been entirely smooth.

In 2018, she missed the bronze medal by 1.5 inches. In 2019, a week before the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, she lost her grandfather, a man she describes as “the only dad I had in my life.” She competed two days after his funeral  but failed to qualify for the World Championships.

But things turned around for her last year when she won the U.S. indoor title. Still, the pandemic prevented her from competing on an international stage. Still, Burks continued training but ended up sustaining an injury to her femur, rendering her unable to compete for 11 weeks.

While her coaches expressed doubt about her being able to go to trials, Burks hopped on Tik Tok to manifest her placement on the Olympic team. In an interview with Good Morning America, Burks said, “There was so much negativity but I just kept telling myself, ‘I’m going to be an Olympian,’ and started recording it,”

@quaneshaburksTHE POWER OF THE TONGUE! Im an OLYMPIAN! Wow!🇺🇸🥺♬ Way Maker (Instrumental Version) – Instrumental Christian Songs, Christian Piano Music & Contemporary Christian Music

Burks said, “It felt like all the odds were against me. At one point, my coach told me, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to physically be able to go to the trials. The doctors didn’t know if I would be back in time. I was seeing some specialists and they didn’t have much hope in me at all. I was facing so much, but I kept going back to when I worked at McDonald’s. I had my goals set and I knew I could do it.”

In the fifth round of the qualifying games, Burks made it to the podium with a lifetime personal best of 6.96 meters, securing her spot on the Olympic team.

@quaneshaburksReply to @augustixxco  The jumped that qualified me for the Olympic Team 🇺🇸♬ original sound – Quanesha Burks

“It’s been a journey and it all started with a little girl working at McDonald’s and here I am.”

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