Olympian Quanesha Burks is a small-town girl who never forgot where she came from. Burks, who just secured a spot on Team USA’s tra-ck and field squad after placing third in the long jump event at the Olympic trials, recounted her journey from working at McDonald’s to now heading to Tokyo. “When I worked at McDonald’s, I thought it was the best job ever,” the Alabama native told Sports Illustrated.
“I was making $100 every two weeks. It’s te*rible, but I came to work every day happy and I knew it was all part of my goal to go to college.” McDonald’s was the first meal Burks decided to eat after she landed the 6.96 meter jump which qualified her for the Olympics.
“I just ate it with so much gratitude in my mouth,” Burks shared. Though the 26-year-old is now preparing to compete at the Summer Games, her hard work and determination is what carried her to this moment.
When Burks was in high school, she began her mornings at 4:30 a.m., dropp-ing her grandmother off to work at a local nursing home, then returning home to prepare her siblings for school. She’d then drop them off before arriving for class at Hartselle High School.
— Quanesha Burks OLY (@strongbelieverQ) June 29, 2021
After school, Burks would have tra-ck practice and then was off to work at McDonalds, a job she used to help her grandmother pay off her car insurance, until 10 p.m.
Despite having a busy schedule, the then-teenager, who had finished third at the 2012 USATF National Junior Olympics, decided that track would be the bridge connecting her to being a collegiate athlete.
“I remember looking up the requirements to earn a full scholarship and I wrote those goals down,” Burks said. “I jumped 20 feet and that’s when everything changed.”
After Burks was offered a scholarship to the University of Alabama, everything did change. As the first-generation college student in her family, Burks shattered school records, earning All-American honors and winning the 2015 NCAA outdoor and 2016 NCAA indoor long jump titles.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and cancelled all sporting events, Burks continued to train, only to su*fer a bone bruise in her femur this past February, sidelining her for 11 weeks.
“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.”
Sti*ki*g to her usual M.O., Burks willed making the Olympic team into existence, where she recorded herself verbally manifesting her goals on her TikTok account.
“There was so much negativity but I just kept telling myself, ‘I’m going to be an Olympian,’ and started recording it,” Burks told “Good Morning America.”
Now, Burks’ dreams have become reality, and she is calling her success a “blessing” and an “honor.”
“It’s a blessing to be one, from my home town in a small community, really just representing myself, but Hartselle, the University of Alabama and the state of Alabama,” Burks shared, WHNT19 reported. “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.”
“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,” Burks said.