Quanesha Burks worked at McDonald's to support her family and decided to put her athletic prowess to secure a college scholarship, before becoming a full-time professional jumper.
Quanesha Burks has epitomized the power of setting goals and speaking them into existence. The track star who went from working at McDonald's to becoming an Olympian is an inspirational story like no other. She set her intentions and worked hard on achieving them. “I just want to instill confidence in so many people to know that if you have a goal, set a plan and you can do it,” the 25-year-old told WHNT about qualifying to represent America in the Olympics this year at Tokyo. Her road to success was a bumpy one but she has emerged with flying colors.
The Hartselle, Alabama native was raised by her grandparents. As a teen, she had a jam-packed day that started at four in the morning. She would take her grandmother to her job at the local nursing home, come back home to get her siblings ready for school, dropping them off, and then attend her own classes as well. After school, she worked at McDonald's to help support her family. “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.”
It was also when she was in high school that she taking sports more seriously. Having realized she could get into college with a sports scholarship, she decided to put her athletic prowess to use. She was then forced to face the choice between basketball and track. She could have easily chosen either path and when track season rolled around she finished third at the 2012 USATF National Junior Olympics. And that's what she picked as a way to get to college. “I remember looking up the requirements to earn a full scholarship and I wrote those goals down,” Burks recalled. “I jumped 20 feet and that’s when everything changed.”
Burks had earned 11 state track titles by the time she graduated from her school and managed to earn a full scholarship to the University of Alabama. She continued earning titles in college as well including, the All-America honors and winning the 2015 NCAA outdoor and 2016 NCAA indoor long jump titles. This was the beginning of her career as a full-time professional jumper. But just when things seemed to be getting better, more obstacles were thrown in her path. In 2018 she finished fourth at the World Athletics Indoor Championships, missing third place by mere inches. The following year, her grandfather passed away further impacting her performance. In 2020 the pandemic brought all sporting events to a standstill and Burks ended up with an injury as well.
Hartselle native Quanesha Burks (@strongbelieverQ) is headed to the Tokyo Olympics, and her goals go far beyond medaling.— Rocco DiSangro (@RoccoDiSangro) July 2, 2021
"I just want to instill confidence in so many people to know that if you have a goal, set a plan and you can do it."
Take a listen ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/gnvMNoe2Ka
“It felt like all the odds were against me,” Burks said. “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.” She shared her journey to the Olympics on TikTok. She recited daily affirmations that she was going to be an Olympian and go to Tokyo. She placed third in the long jump at the Olympic Trials, qualifying her for the Summer Games. “Knowing that I’m representing us in Tokyo is just a blessing, it’s an honor and I’m so proud of the other Olympians,” Burks said.