Olympic track and field competitor Quanesha Burks has a story of perseverance and determination that has all the makings of a Hollywood sports movie. The athlete from a small town in Alabama spent her high school years helping her family, going to school, working at McDonald’s and training to become a track and field star with the goal of receiving a college scholarship.
The young athlete accomplished her goal — and then some. As a teen, Burks juggled schoolwork, track practice and her McDonald’s job, and she was ultimately awarded a scholarship to the University of Alabama. By the time she graduated high school, she had 11 state titles, including the 100 meters, long jump and triple jump sweep.
At college, Burks won the 2015 NCAA outdoor and 2016 NCAA indoor long jump titles. She soon set her sights on the Olympics and trained harder than ever. Her spirit didn’t even falter after setbacks like the COVID-19 pandemic (which pushed the Tokyo Olympics even farther away) and a femur injury this past February, which stalled her training for 11 weeks.
The star athlete never let go of her Olympic-sized goal, however, and she managed to place third in the long jump at the Olympic Trials this summer, which qualified her to represent the U.S. at the 2021 games in Tokyo.
Burks celebrated her accomplishment with a tweet on Jun. 29, featuring a photo from her McDonald’s days next to a photo of Burks as a U.S. Olympian.
— Quanesha Burks OLY (@strongbelieverQ) June 29, 2021
A lot has changed since Burks’ high school years, but her positive attitude and determination have remained the same. She kept an upbeat outlook, even during long days of working at McDonald’s and going to school.
“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.”
Even when college recruiters called her during her shifts, she kept recruiting calls brief and told coaches she’d call them back when she was available. According to Sports Illustrated, Mississippi State coach Steve Dudley visited Burks at McDonald’s and waited for her to take a break so he could talk with her.
Later, when she set her sights even higher — to the Olympic stage — Burks announced her intentions on video, as a way of manifesting her dreams. After she qualified for the Tokyo games, Burks posted a montage on TikTok of all the times she verbalized her belief that she would become an Olympian, as proof that her manifestation efforts worked.
THE POWER OF THE TONGUE! Im an OLYMPIAN! Wow!🇺🇸🥺
Despite her impressive accomplishments, Burks is still an Alabama girl who is proud to represent not just her country, but also her hometown of Hartselle at the Tokyo games.
“It’s a blessing to be, like, one from my hometown in a small community, really just representing myself, but Hartselle, the University of Alabama and the state of Alabama,” Burks told Alabama news station WHNT. “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.”