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From McDonald’s to the Olympics: Long Jump Star Quanesha Burks Talks Her Journey from Small Alabama Town to Tokyo

Siri, play Drake’s “Started From the Bottom.”

Olympian Quanesha Burks recently earned a spot on the USA Track and Field team after placing third in the women’s long jump at the U.S. Olympic Trials last month. The small-town Alabama native decided to celebrate her spectacular achievement in a very interesting way — by enjoying a meal from McDonald’s.

Quanesha Burks talks about her journey to becoming an Olympian. (Photo: @q_burks/Instagram)

On July 9, Burks told Sports Illustrated that McDonald’s has a special place in her heart because, before her recent success, she used to work there. “When I worked at McDonald’s, I thought it was the best job ever,” she said.

Burks’ hard work began long before last month’s Olympic Trials event. In high school, she would wake up at 4:30 a.m. to take her grandmother to a nursing home before returning home and helping her siblings prepare for school. After that, she would attend her classes at Hartselle High School in the town of Hartselle in northern Alabama, go to track practice, and end her day at 10 p.m. after a shift at a local McDonald’s.

Giving a little insight into how she remembers her experience while working at the famous fast food restaurant, she said, “I was making $100 every two weeks. It’s terrible, but I came to work every day happy, and I knew it was all part of my goal to go to college.”

She knew back then that she would make track her ticket to college. “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.” The now-26-year-old was a first-generation college student and attended the University of Alabama on a track scholarship.

Fast-forward to 2020, and, similarly for millions of other people, COVID-19 halted scheduled plans like track meets. Not only that, but Burks suffered a bone bruise in her thigh earlier this year in February while training. “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.”

Burks said, “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.”

That positive mindset worked because now she’s headed to compete in Tokyo later this month.

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