KEY POINTS

  • Quanesha Burks will represent the USA in the Olympic long jump competition
  • Burks used to be a McDonald's employee and a scholar at the University of Alabama
  • The 26-year-old is thrilled about finally becoming an Olympian and has her eyes on the prize

A former McDonald’s employee has jumped her way up to the Olympics.

Quanesha Burks is currently in Tokyo to represent the USA in the long jump competition for the first time.

Ahead of her Olympic debut, Burks reassured her social media followers that she came to Tokyo all the way from Alabama for one thing–to win.

“Some boys want Audi rings. Some girls want wedding rings. But these are the rings I’ve been wanting all my life,” Burks wrote on Instagram with a photo of her sitting in the middle of the Olympic rings in Tokyo.

While it is quite normal for an Olympian to be fueled by the thirst to win the gold, Burks’ journey to the Olympics made her somewhat special.

Some may not know, but Burks used to be a McDonald’s employee and a scholar-athlete at the University of Alabama at the same time.

“When I worked at McDonald’s, I thought it was the best job ever,” Burks told Sports Illustrated. “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.”

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

Contrary to what many assumed, Burks’ story wasn’t all fairytale. Working at McDonald’s from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. soon took a toll on her scholarship as there were days when she had troubles dealing with practice schedules and his coaches couldn’t contact her.

“Coach [Miguel] Pate actually had to sit me down with my high school coach, Kenny Lopez, and guidance counselor so I could understand how my life was going to change and I wouldn’t need to work at McDonald’s,” the 26-year-old recounted.

“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.”

Despite her complicated situation, Burks didn’t quit her McDonald’s job until she graduated high school.

While still working, she managed to cop 11 state titles, including her 100 meters, long jump, and triple jump sweep as a senior.

Burks’ hard work soon paid off and she finally made the cut in the prestigious Olympic games.

Taking her thoughts on TikTok, Burks posted a compilation of short video clips uttering “I’m going to be an Olympian.”

Tokyo 2020 was delayed by one year by the coronavirus pandemic Tokyo 2020 was delayed by one year by the coronavirus pandemic Photo: AFP / Behrouz MEHRI