SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Her best jump was more than 3 1/2 feet short of her American record, but it was far enough to keep Jackie Joyner-Kersee's goal of a fifth Olympic appearance alive.
Showing the rust of a two-year layoff, Joyner-Kersee still managed to go 21 feet, 0 3/4 inches on her third and final jump of the preliminaries Friday to advance to Sunday's finals.
''The door is always squeaking,'' she said, laughing as her daughter sat beside her in the interview tent. ''I had to get some WD-40 or Icee Hot. Yeah I was rusty, couldn't you tell?''
Just like in the old days, her husband and coach, Bob Kersee, was Joyner-Kersee's harshest critic. He faulted her technique and said she was trying to coach herself on the runway.
''I don't know whether to strangle her or hug her,'' Kersee said, ''but I'm happy she made the finals. It was just normal Jackie being hard-headed.''
The 38-year-old winner of six Olympic medals, three of them gold, agrees with her husband that she can go a good 1 1/2 feet farther Sunday.
'Yes, because I didn't realize I wasn't touching the board,'' she said, adding that she must work on her runway approach. ''I'm going to have to do a lot of visualizing and feeling, because I can't afford to back off. I'm going to have to attack.''
Introduced to the warm cheers of the capacity crowd at Hornet Stadium on the Sacramento State campus, Joyner-Kersee's face never broke from its solemn expression throughout her three attempts.
An Achilles' tendon problem had prevented her from competing at a low-key meet a month ago. Her first jump Friday was her first full-approach attempt since her farewell meet two years ago, including practice.
''It's not something I would recommend to anyone under normal circumstances,'' she said.
Her first jump Friday was just 20-7 3/4, more than a foot short of the automatic qualifying mark. Her husband climbed down the stands and shouted at his wife. She just listened. Her second attempt was a run-through. No jump. She slumped to the ground.
Kersee shouted at her, some encouragement and some criticism.
''Bobby said I wasn't attacking, but I told him 'What do you expect?'' she said.
Her third jump was her best. She wound up eighth among the 12 qualifiers.
''I executed a jump, but it wasn't a great one,'' she said.
Marion Jones, the young superstar of track who was fifth in qualifying, knows why Joyner-Kersee came back, because the marks these days are far short of Joyner-Kersee's best.
''If I was in Jackie's shoes, I'd definitely come back,'' Jones said. ''It's good for the sport, and it's a thrill for me.''
Many of the younger athletes grew up watching Joyner-Kersee develop into the greatest female athlete of her time, the world record holder in the heptathlon. No female track has won as many Olympic medals as she has won.
''She's my hero,'' Jones said, ''my idol.''
Now it comes down Sunday.
''The good thing is the more I jumped, the better I felt,'' Joyner-Kersee said. ''A day's rest. At 38 years old, you need that rest.''
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