Did you know that in the year 2023, only men can earn the title of World’s Greatest Athlete?
Surprisingly, yes, it’s true! And, with 30,000+ signatures on a petition for the International Olympic Committee, we are one step closer to seeing Olympic History made.
The Let Women Decathlon movement was founded by Team USA’s Jordan Gray and she, alongside women across the globe, would like to see gender parity in the Olympic Games.
Will you join us and help women (alongside men) prepare to compete at the highest level?
Together we can make Olympic history!
“WOMEN HAVE BEEN SIDELINED FOR CENTURIES. WE’VE BEEN SAID TO BE INCAPABLE OF OWNING PROPERTY, RUNNING A MARATHON, FULL-COURT BASKETBALL, POLE VAULTING, RUNNING A MILE, HOLDING OFFICE, AND EVEN VOTING. WE’VE COME SO FAR, AND YET HERE WE ARE TRYING TO CLEAR YET ANOTHER HURDLE…IN THE YEAR 2023.”
– JORDAN GRAY, TEAM USA AND LWD FOUNDER
We’re raising money to support the Women’s Decathlon in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California. Heaven To the Yeah is a non-profit that donates 100% of the proceeds directly to the movement, and any donation will help make an impact. Thanks in advance for your contribution to this cause that means so much to young girls and women across the globe… let women decathlon!
Check out and share our sponsor package to learn more…
Learn more about the movement here and watch a few videos… https://heaventotheyeah.org
Thank you for creating a lasting impact for young girls and women
Melyssa Barrett: Welcome to The Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Each week I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in the space. Let’s get started. The decathlon was introduced first at the 1912 Olympic Games. It wasn’t until 1984 that women were allowed to compete in the heptathlon. Today more than 100 years after the introduction of the Olympic Decathlon, women continue to be denied the opportunity to compete in the event that earns an athlete, the title of world’s greatest athlete founded by Jordan Gray, the Let Women Decathlon movement began with the goal of invoking change in the Olympics.
We are simply fighting for an equal chance to compete. The Women’s Decathlon is already in place at the highest levels of sport, including USA Track & Field, and the International Association of Athletics Federations. Her vision is one of true equality with the inclusion of the women’s decathlon in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028. I’m excited to introduce Jordan Gray.
First of all, let me just say it is such a complete honor to actually finally connect with you so that I can hear all about the things that you are doing in the world Because it is phenomenal. So, I really wanted to just dive in and have you talk a little bit about yourself. How’d you get to where you are ’cause you are an absolutely amazing woman and I really want people to understand all that you do, to be the person you are competing at this level.
Jordan Gray: Got you. So, you want to hear high school into now? Is that kind of what you’re thinking?
Melyssa Barrett: Wherever the story starts.
Jordan Gray: Okay. Well, I have done sports all of my life. My dad played baseball in college. My mom played tons of sports all through high school and then played a couple of men’s leagues, actually post collegiately with my dad in different softball leagues and stuff. So, they always had us doing sports. I was homeschooled until I went to college. And so, there was never a point where my parents were like, “No. You’re doing too much.” It was, “You want to play tennis. Great. Tennis. You want to go to acting camp? Fantastic. We’ll sign you up for acting camp.” Whatever it was. So, pretty sure from the time I could hold things in my hand. I had a baseball bat. And so, just sports have always been a part of my family’s life. They’ve just always been a big thing.
So, I did so many sports growing up. I did softball. I’m a black belt in Taekwondo. I did basketball, gymnastics, tennis. I mean, we did everything but being homeschooled, you can’t run or at least you couldn’t run for your local high schools. When I was in high school, you had to do county leagues or summer leagues, things like that. And so, I never really did track and field. And so right before my senior year of high school, my mom had done track and field in high school herself and loved it. And she was like, “Jordan, I just really think that you would track and field. I really want you to try it.” And I’m the oldest, so I’m used to being the guinea pigs, so I just kind of got voluntold to do a lot in my life, like “Do you want to do this?” But it wasn’t actually a question.
And so, she was like, “I just really think you’d like it.” I was like, “Okay, mom. Yeah. If you want to sign me up for track and field, I’ll try it, whatever.” So, she signed me up to go to a tryout for a club called the Heat Track Club, and it’s a really fun club near Atlanta, Georgia. It runs out of Kell High School. And the guy that runs it, his daughter has actually been to the Olympics multiple times for the heptathlon. He’s a very good coach, very good athletes for kids. And so, I went, he had me try out. My tryout was three 500s with a girl who went to UGA to run to 800 and I died. It was the worst. And the next day I didn’t get out of bed and my mom came to find me and she was like, “Are you going to get up today?” And I was like, ‘I’m never getting up ever again. I can’t move. This is awful.”
But I was a basketball girl, so I was in the tail end of basketball season when that started. And so, I was in a game where I went up for a layup and a girl pushed me and I sprained my ankle so bad, I pulled a piece of the bone off and I was like, “Well, we have to win this game.” So, I told no one. I was like, “It’s fine, we’re good.” And I kept playing and then I sprained my other ankle ’cause I was compensating so much, and I was like, “Well, now I got nothing to limp on, so we’re just going to keep going.” So, game ended, we won, took my shoes off finally and my ankle swelled up to softballs. It was awful. So, I went to my first track practice in a big old boot and a brace.
And so, the coach just like, “Well, I mean, you seem kind of strong, so we’ll teach you shot put and javelin if you want to try that. And I was like, “Okay.” So those are the first events I learned. And then when I came out of the boot and brace, he was like, “Well, you can jump and you can kind of run, so we’ll have you do the heptathlon.” And I was like, “Okay. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what that is. Yeah, okay, sure.” I didn’t know it was 400 meters around a track. I knew of nothing. And so, my first track meet ever, my parents and I have tried to figure this out. I might have thrown shot put only in one track meet before, but I’m pretty sure my first track meet ever was a heptathlon. ‘Cause I remember being very confused that some people didn’t do this. People are like, “Yeah, I throw discus. And I’m like, “And what else? What else do you…” You know what I mean? I thought everyone did track and field. It was just such a whole new world to me.
And so did heptathlon. It was awful, but I did it and I had so much fun. I fell in the hurdles. I ran so slow that I got two points. Usually, people are scoring almost a 1,000 points. I was 0.3 seconds away getting no points at all in the hurdles. And so, that just kind of took off from there. And I kept having fun and I kept loving it. And pretty quickly my parents were like, “I think you could go to college doing this.” And I was like, “No. I want to play basketball in college. I don’t want to do track and field.” And eventually, my mom just very lovingly was kind of like, “Jordan, you are good at basketball because you can run and jump and now we have found a place for you to run and jump.” I was like, “Okay.”
So, I started visiting schools to get a gauge on what it would be like to do track in college, and I visited a lot. But the one that I ended up going to actually ended up being pretty close to my hometown it was Kennesaw State University. I had a great time with the team on my visit, and the coach was just very much so what I was looking for. I’m very like, tell me why I’m doing something and don’t let the reason be because I did this in the ’70s. I want to know why I’m doing things. I want to know how it’s making you better. And when I walk into his office, there were just shelves on periodization, endocrinology, kinesiology that he had read and or written.
And so that was awesome. Showed me annual plans and all these things. And then just the cherry on the cake was, he was like, also, there’s a bus in the parking lot and if you happen to be on that bus at 10:00 AM on a Sunday, it will drive you to church. And he would drive a bus of kids to church every Sunday. And I was like, “This is it.” And so, me and my dad were walking out, and I was like, “This is where I’m going to go to school.” My dad said, “Yelp.” And so, that’s where I ended up going. I still didn’t know very much about track and field. I just kind of been doing it, but from then on out I was doing the heptathlon, and that’s kind of how I got my start there going to college.
Melyssa Barrett: So, for us lay people who maybe don’t know what the heptathlon is, can you talk about… ’cause I mean, I know it’s seven events, but what are they?
Jordan Gray: Yeah.
Melyssa Barrett: ‘Cause I can’t imagine just going from one thing to the other to the other after being exhausted from one thing. You know what I mean?
Jordan Gray: It’s definitely something you have to train for, just the work capacity to be able to get through all of them. But it’s day one, you do the 100-meter hurdles, the high jump, the shot put, and the 200. And then day two you come back, and you do the long jump, the javelin, and the 800.
Melyssa Barrett: Wow. Okay. So…
Jordan Gray: Yeah. It’s a lot of fun. So that’s what I was doing in college, and I had injured myself pretty bad and right at the tail end of my indoor season. And so, outdoor season came around and I was just watching and helping, and I had never really taken time to watch other events just because what you said, we were just bouncing between stuff.
Melyssa Barrett: Right.
Jordan Gray: And so, I was watching a bunch of people pole vault at a competition and I went, “I want to do this. I’m going to pole vault.” And my coach was like, “No. I am not teaching you pole vault. You have seven events to learn. I’m not doing that.” And I was like, “Nope, I’m going to learn pole vault. I’m going to learn what all these sizes you guys are talking about, and these numbers and all these things.” And then a bunch of college boys are standing around me obviously. So they start making jokes and they’re like, “Oh, Jordan wants to learn about pole sizes.” Or whatever, and I was like, “You all can make as many jokes you want as long as somebody teaches me how to do this.”
Melyssa Barrett: That sounds like a man.
Jordan Gray: Yeah. Exactly. It’s like, “Okay. College boys, ease up, I just want to pole vault.” But so, I wind and wind and wind for a year, a full year. I was like, “Someone’s going to teach me this. I’m going to learn this.” And after a year, there was one practice, super hard, super challenging, got done just so ready to walk home. And coach came up to me and he’s like, “Hey, the decathletes are warming up. Today’s pole vault day, if you want to come learn pole vault, today is your day.” And I was so tired, and I was like, “Oh, but if I say no, he will never give me this opportunity again.” So, I put my backpack down, I was like, “Okay. Here we go pole vault.” So, went it off started pole-vaulting, and then from then on out, I basically just became a heptathlete who pole vaulted that first year, I think I practiced three times and competed once or something. I really didn’t do much that first year. But then junior year, it kind of started actually working into my plan.
And that same year he actually asked me if I would learn discus because our conference had been a little weak in discus. He thought I could pick it up quickly and score some points. And it was kind of at that point where I was like, “Okay. So, I’m basically doing a decathlon now because those are the other field events you add the discus and the pole vault and the 100-meter dash, that’s what you add.” And so, I was like, “Why do girls not do the decathlon?” So, I told my coach, I was like, “I’m going to do a decathlon. That is my new thing. I’m going to do a full decathlon.” And he was like, “No. You’re not doing a full decathlon.” I was like, “Well, that’s what she said about pole vault. So, I’m going to do a decathlon.”
Melyssa Barrett: I don’t think they understand your full mindset.
Jordan Gray: Yeah. I’m like, “I don’t think you understand how this works yet.”
Melyssa Barrett: I love it.
Jordan Gray: I’m going to do it. So, I started kind of looking into the history, just ’cause I all of a sudden got really curious on why people didn’t do, or girls didn’t do the decathlon. And basically, almost as soon as I started researching it, I was like, “Wow. Okay. So this is super sexist. That’s awful.” And so, just the more I read, the more mad I got. I was like, “Are you kidding me? That’s why we don’t do the decathlon?” And basically, it was just girls were incapable. Girls can’t handle this. A lot of it’s unhealthy for them to be able to do this. Women are not physically capable of pole-vaulting.
So basically, the history was in 1912, men got the decathlon and in 1912, girls could almost do nothing in the world of sports. And so, 1964 rolled around and they said, “Okay. You know what? We think maybe you guys could handle five of the events. We’ll let you guys do five. You can do a pentathlon, but you still can’t do all 10.” And so, girls started rocking it in the pentathlon as they do when you let them do anything. And then in 1984, they said, “Okay. It’s become clear you guys can handle to five, but we still don’t think you can pole vault. We’re still not letting you do the discus in this. So, we’re going to take out a run jump and a throw ’cause you can’t pole vault, but we’ll let you do seven.” Because girls weren’t allowed to pole vault in the Olympics till the year 2000. So, the heptathlon was 1984, so girls weren’t even just allowed to pole vault much less do a pole vault and nine other events in the ’80s. And then basically since then, everyone’s just kind of gone, “Yup. Heptathlon just the way it is.”
And I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” It just made me so upset. So, my coach actually is the one that found the opportunity to do the decathlon ’cause I had said I wanted to, and the main reason he said, “No is because you can’t do it in the NCAA if you’re a girl. You can’t do it at US championships. There’s just no places, really?” And so, he eventually found a place, the Women’s Decathlon Association put one out in California, and he was like, “I think you could go. I think it could be really cool.” And I was like, “Great. Let’s do it.” And then on the way there, he was like, “I think you could maybe break the American record of this.” And I was like, “No. I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s not why we’re here.” And he was, “Well, I ran the numbers maybe you should run the numbers on what you think you can do. I bet you could.”
And so, then I went in and started playing with the numbers and I was like, “Oh man, maybe I actually can do this. That would be really neat.” So, went there, did it broke the American record, which was great. It was super fun. But I think that it just opened up a floodgate that I didn’t realize would happen because women have been throwing themselves in decathlon since the ’70s just saying that they can do it, but there hasn’t been a ton of movement for its push. And so, when I broke the American record, I all of a sudden have people from all over the world messaging me saying like, “This needs to change. I think you could be the face of it. This is such a great revitalization of this.” Just all sorts of stuff. And it really just sparked this whole initiative that I didn’t plan on starting. I didn’t go into thinking about starting, but it’s really been awesome to see what’s happened since then.
Melyssa Barrett: And just ’cause I know how humble you are and you’re all, “Yeah. I’m a record holder.” Or whatever, but you literally are the American record holder in the women’s decathlon, the women’s decathlon 100- meter dash. The long jump American record holder and the women’s decathlon long jump. So, I mean, when you started this movement, people were telling you things need to change. And it sounds like in some cases there were some decathlons at different levels being that opened up and allowed women to compete. So, why did you start Let Women Decathlon and where did that come from and what do you hope as a result?
Jordan Gray: Women have been, like I said, since the ’70s, throwing themselves into the decathlons and kind of putting on their own events. And they’re a lot more common out in Europe actually. They’re not really common in the US but out in Europe, they tend to have a lot more with a lot more women involved, which is really cool. And so, basically, Let Women Decathlon just kind of became the movement that people could get behind because it was a lot of individual voices that didn’t have a lot of pull. So, it was a lot of just, “Oh, this random girl over here said something and then this random girl over here said something.” And then tenure later, this girl is kind of making a fuss. But it was never a unified movement to make anything happen that everyone could say, I’m behind this.
And so, Let Women Decathlon just kind of took that on. There’s a company called Locke & Co, Locke is basically what they go by, but they’re down south and they kind of got behind it. They have some connections with my dad, and they just said, “We love this. We want to help put this on.” So, they actually did a lot of the groundwork to lay the foundation for that, and I could not be more thankful. They put together some awesome videos. They’re the ones that set the petition up. They did some great work to really get this started.
So, really started it just to say, “Hey, we have this really neat footage that people can share, people can get behind, learn what it’s about ’cause most people when you say, “Hey, do you know there’s a decathlon” They’ve heard of Bruce Jenner, they’ve heard of the world’s greatest athlete. They know there’s a decathlon. But then when you say, “Did you know that women aren’t allowed to do that at the Olympics?” They lose their mind. They’re like, “I didn’t know that. I’ve never…” Or they’ve kind of heard Jackie Joyner-Kersee and they know she did seven, but they don’t make the connection that women aren’t allowed to do the 10. And so, it’s just really cool to have this material like, “Hey, share this. Hey, look at this.”
And so, that petition when it went off, I was shocked. We’re over 30,000 signatures right now, and we had thousands within the first days of letting that petition go into the wild, and it was just so cool to see. So just making that movement was kind of part of getting that voice out there and just seeing where it’s gone. It’s been incredible.
Melyssa Barrett: That is phenomenal. I mean, ’cause I’m glad I’m not the only one in the world who was shocked when I found out like, “Wait, women are being denied access to compete in a decathlon?” That just seems so wacky to me in 2023.
Jordan Gray: Well, it’s wacky too, just because I know that the Olympics, they do strive for gender equality. So, I think there’s a lot of things they’ve tried to change. I know that in 2024, women for the first time are going to be allowed to surf on waves that in the past of being deemed too dangerous for women. So, I think they’re trying to move that way. It’s just really hard when you think about women’s careers, and I think that’s what they try not to hurt. So, when you first think about it and you hear it, you’re like, “Wow, that’s awful. Women aren’t allowed to do that. That’s crazy.” But when you think about the women that are currently doing it, pole vault’s a hard skill to just all of a sudden learn just out of nowhere, if you were told you had to just all of a sudden, “Hey, by the way, now you have to learn how to do this too.”
,So there’s women that are on the tail end of their career, so it’ll be kind of unfair to these women that are getting sponsorship monies, chances to go to the Olympics, et cetera, and then just all of a sudden say, “Hey, you have to do three more events.” And those day two and day one runs get twice as long and we’re going to throw all these things at you. So that would be kind of unfair. So, there’s that balance of how do you get the change to happen without pulling the rug out from underneath these girls.
And there’s also just the balance of demand. I think a lot of people think that women are okay with the heptathlon, which a lot of women are, especially at the highest levels because they’re successful at it, and so they want to do it. And I know that Gen Z gets a lot of grief about some of the things like, “Oh, so Gen Z.” But I do think that’s something they’re very good at saying no. I think a big part of the reason that I noticed the discrepancies and it made me so upset when I heard about heptathlon versus decathlon is because I didn’t grow up with it, so it hit me harder. I think if you’ve grown up with track and field and you’ve just done it since middle school, you just know, okay, girls just aren’t allowed to do this, and you move on.
But that’s never been my case ’cause I didn’t grow up with it. So, when I’m in college and hearing about this, I’m like, no, what are you guys talking about why are you okay with this? Especially girls that I know would be capable because I think sadly, a lot of them downplay themselves. They’re very good at the heptathlon like, “Oh no, I could never run a 1500. I don’t think I could pole vault. I don’t think I could do those things.” And it’s like, you throw the shot put over 15 meters and you run the 100-meter dash in low 11s, do you know high you could pole vault? That’s all you need. You are fast and you are strong. I promise you. You could pick this up. It’s not as bad as you think.” So, there’s a lot of things to consider when you do think about changing it, but none of them are good enough excuses to keep equality from happening.
Melyssa Barrett: And I know the Olympics, it’s not like they’re there every year. I know the Olympics is coming to Los Angeles in 2028. What’s the goal in terms of… ’cause I mean I want you to talk a little bit about the petition, but in terms of how you want to see the change made, what’s your target? ‘Cause we’ve got Olympics in 2024 and then 2028, and all of that.
Jordan Gray: Hopefully, at the end of this month, they’re going to have a big meeting at the IOC and they’re going to determine a lot of the sports that are going to happen and or not happen, and World Athletics, which is basically just world track and field ’cause the rest of the world just calls track and field athletics. So, World Athletics has to make certain petitions, I guess certain requests for things to happen. So, I’ve had lots of conversations, built lots of pitch decks, et cetera, et cetera, for them to take and use in their own meetings that I’m not allowed into and for them to take and kind of talk to those more important people. So, it would have to basically happen at a world championship level before it happened at the Olympic level. But hopefully if it does get moved to a point where it could happen in the Olympics in 2028, then that means it would happen in the world championships that happened prior in 2026.
So, it is a weird balance on how it has to happen because everyone points back and forth like World Athletics doesn’t and kind of valid, right? Like World Athletics doesn’t want to say, “Well, we want to put this championship event on, but then you can’t do it at the Olympics.” And the Olympics is going to say, “Well, I’m not going to put on this event if I don’t have people coming in that are at a world level that are good enough to be considered an Olympic athlete.” So, it’s this weird chicken and egg situation on which one comes first, which one can come first. But they almost have to happen simultaneously in the decision like, “Okay. This is what’s going to happen.” So, they’ll happen at the championships and then they’ll happen at the games.
So, it’s a very weird thing, but the petition basically, it isn’t like a set thing. World Athletics or the Olympics didn’t come and say, “Get us a million signatures and we’ll add it.” It’s not anything like that. It’s more so to show the interest because World Athletics and Olympics wants viewers. They want people that are interested in what they’re doing. And a lot of the people that signed that petition are people that aren’t watching the heptathlon, decathlon ’cause they didn’t even know this was a problem. But it’s 30,000 new people that would be tuning into the Women’s decathlon ’cause they would want to watch it ’cause they would’ve known. Now this is something that’s never been allowed. I signed the petition to help this happen, women should have this opportunity. So, it was more so just so that there is world involvement and there’s a world desire to watch this happen. That was the biggest reason for having it.
Melyssa Barrett: So, the petition that you have going with more than 30,000 signatures, I mean, literally people can join and sign the petition right now?
Jordan Gray: Yes. Please do. Please sign the petition at letwomendecathlon.org.
Melyssa Barrett: Awesome. And I think what’s interesting is especially for all the women that are watching, and a lot of even men have their girl dads, right? They don’t want to see their own children limited with where they can go. And I just think the more people get involved, let’s really change history. I mean, we have Jordan here out in the front leading the way, literally leading the way to the decathlon for women. So, I would love to see Jordan end up with the world’s greatest athlete right or wrong next to any man that has that same title.
Jordan Gray: Well, and I think what’s interesting is that there’s a lot of conversation that says, “Well, the women’s shot put also weighs a little bit less, and the hurdles for the women are also lower.” And so, they say, “Well, it’s the same. It’s the same as that. This is just the girl’s version of the decathlon.” But I do think what they’re missing in that argument is that there’s a big difference between saying in general, men are bigger, faster, stronger, versus women just can’t. There’s a difference between saying, “On average a man is going to win the mile and women can’t run a mile.” And the hep tough one wasn’t made saying, “Okay, guys, you’re going to use a lighter shot put, you’re going to have shorter hurdles, but we’ll still allow you to do this event.” It was, “You are incapable as a human being of completing this, so we won’t let you even try.”
Those are two very, very different statements that I think need to be clearly defined ’cause a lot of times people come to me and they’re like, “Well, you’re just as fast and strong as a man. You should be allowed to.” And I’m like, “No. I am not. I am not just as fast as strong as a man.” I can run a mile in about 5 30, 5 minutes 30 seconds is about what I could run a mile in. And that will beat the average American man. If you want to brace me, I’m probably going to beat you. But against men that train for the mile, they’re going sub four minutes, they’re running like three minutes, 57 seconds for the mile, and there is no woman in history that can do that, but women can still run the mile super freaking fast. We still let them run. So, I think that [inaudible 00:28:37].
Melyssa Barrett: Well, let’s remember they have what? Over 110 years advantage over training for them, right? So, I mean, come on.
Jordan Gray: Yeah. And we have testosterone, and we have… If I had even within a thousandth of the amount of testosterone that they have, I would get tested positive for drug testing and get banned from my sport for two years. It’s a whole thing. So, I think that there’s a balance between saying like, “Well, women are, you’re just as strong.” I’m not just as strong, but I can still do it. I can still pole vault. I’m not going to pole vault as high as the highest pole vaulter. We’re not going to do that, but I can pole vault. And so, to say that I can’t is just ridiculous. So, it’s a weird balance, but it’s a necessary balance to make the proper changes.
Melyssa Barrett: So now aside from signing the petition, because I think honestly, I think everybody should sign the petition. I know you all are also focused on making sure that people have an opportunity to support the movement and you all getting to the, I think it’s the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, right? And so, I know there’s opportunity not only for people to give a donation, but also if a company wants to sponsor or maybe they partner with the Olympics, who knows? That they have an opportunity to also sponsor an event for lack of a better term at the 2028 Olympics. And I think can you talk a little bit about what you’re planning or what you’re hoping for?
Jordan Gray: Yeah. So Kat, is our CEO. She’s the one that runs the Heaven to the Yeah organization and basically that organization, it does do a lot with spreading the gospel, et cetera, but its main mission statement is to work with sports and events that are underrepresented. So, she threw the hammer, that’s a very underrepresented sport, one of our Grace Ambassadors, that’s what she does, and we try to help and support her. Same thing with women’s decathlon, it’s an underrepresented sport. So, a lot of their work is going towards getting those things, the coverage they need, the events they need, et cetera. So, if you go to that heaventotheyeah.com site, there is a whole giving section where companies or people can go in and give different levels of donation, which some of it gets you some cool stuff like gear or sweet boxes or just super cool things depending on where you give.
But a big reason that they’re doing that is because 100% of it would be used to put on potentially a world-class women’s decathlon in the United States where we can invite women and men from around the world to come do this world-class event and really showcase what the decathlon could be at an Olympic level. So that’s a huge, huge part of what we’re trying to do is put on that event and really, really just show the world there are women ready for this, just like there are men ready for this. And especially bringing in those men and those women I think is a key part because we want to show what the women can do, but also, we want to show that the women’s decathlon isn’t trying to be so separate that we do the exact same thing back to men that has happened to us where like, “No. This is for girls only.” We don’t want to do that.
I remember when we were talking about putting on some of these events and doing some of these things, Kat and I were just brainstorming for some stuff and she’s like, “Well, maybe it shouldn’t just be for girls. Only girls can sign up for the camp.” And it made me think of that episode of Parks and Rec where Ron Swanson has his Boy Scouts and he won’t let any girls join the little Boy Scouts camp, and so Leslie makes her own camp. And then it’s so fun and has so many things that some of the boys come over and they want to join. And she’s like, “Well, no, you can’t join. This is the girls only.” And then she has that whole meltdown moment where she’s like, “I just did to them what they did to us in the first place, which is not what this is about.”
And so, just that whole episode immediately ran through my head, and I was like, “You know what? No. I don’t want to make this an event that’s just for girls. I want this to be a thing where, no, everyone can do the decathlon. The decathlon is for everyone, and I want everyone to be able to come to a world-class event and show off what they can do and really put on just this amazing show for all the viewers.” So, if any company or person was interested in donating to that and really being a part of a world history making event, it would be a really cool thing to be a part of.
Melyssa Barrett: Absolutely. Well, and so, I would be remiss if I did not ask you, a lot of people ask kind of what would you tell your younger self? But I’m going to ask you what would you tell your daughter or some little girl who is striving to create the mindset first of all that you have, which is amazing, and then to couple it with the talent you have for competition and winning. What would you tell those young girls who aspire to do what you’re doing?
Jordan Gray: Like aspire to be a decathlete?
Melyssa Barrett: Yes.
Jordan Gray: Honestly, I think that I would tell them one to be gritty. My handle is grit goddess. And the reason that it is because my dad has an acronym for grit because my dad… I mean, he was that guy. If you said, “Dad, my foot hurts.” He’s like, “Okay. Come over. You want me to punch you in the arm, so you stop thinking about your foot?” You’re fine. And just kind of, he didn’t take things, not seriously, but at the same time, he really encouraged us to be tough. At the same time, he’s the big bear hug dad, he’s the great job. He’s the encourager. He’s honestly kind of a big teddy bear. But at the same time, you don’t give up. You do not give anything less than your all if you are the janitor or the CEO, you give the same work ethic. He is that kind of person. And so, he has an acronym for grit, and it’s you have to be grateful, respectful, have integrity, and tenacity. And he says, ‘If you have those things and you’re truly going to be gritty.”
And I think that if you’re going to be a decathlete, you’re called the world’s greatest athlete for a reason. Most of what you do is work. And if you’re not grateful for the opportunities, I mean you’re just going to fall into a depression. It’s such hard work. You have to be grateful for the opportunities and things you get in this life. You have to be respectful to yourself and you have to be respectful to your coaches and the people in your life. If you don’t respect your coach, if you don’t respect yourself, if you don’t respect those around you, you’re not going to accomplish anything ’cause people think they can accomplish things alone and most of the time they’re wrong.
You need people around you. And so, you have to be respectful to them and yourself. You have to have integrity. Nobody’s going to be watching you all the time. If you have to do 10 reps and you do two, that’s on you. If you’re out lying to people and you’re the only one that knows that’s still on you. There’s a lot of things you’re going to have to do by yourself. And no one’s going to see… Oh, people are going to see you win. People are going to see you cross the finish line first, and no one’s going to see the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of reps that you had to do by yourself with no one watching, so you have to have that integrity. And then you got to have some tenacity. You’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to be willing to get beaten into the ground and stand back up. And that’s just the expectation. It’s not the exception. So, you’ve got to have that tenacity.
But then lastly, I would say to anybody wanting to do anything in life, you’ve got to have a purpose. If you don’t know why you’re running, if you don’t know why you’re doing the things that you’re doing, then it’s all going to be in vain. My life would be so depressing and upset if my entire life revolved around running in circles and how far I could throw a metal ball. I care about those things tremendously. I’ve moved my life across the country. I train so hard every day. There’s lots of things I do to get them done, but at the end of the day, track and field is not my purpose in life. So, you have to find why you’re running, why you’re doing the things that you’re doing, and then that will make everything that you’re doing worthwhile. So, I think those two things are kind of what I would say.
Melyssa Barrett: I love it. We need to redefine grit for sure. Your dad is on to something ’cause I think everybody’s talking about the grit and the hustle, and I’m like, “There’s more important things in life.”
Jordan Gray: Yeah. Or even just recovery. I was telling this to some athletes the other day, I’m like, they didn’t show enough scenes of Rocky eating and sleeping. You have got to go to bed, and you have got to eat right. You give 100%, but you also have to recover, and you have to take time for yourself, and you have to be mentally and spiritually and all of those things, aware and healthy just as much as physically because if you’re not mentally and spiritually okay it doesn’t matter how physically ready you are, you’re going to tank.
Melyssa Barrett: Amen to that. That is awesome. I mean, I don’t even know what else to say after that because it was so cool. So, I just want to remind people, go to Let Women Decathlon and sign the petition. If you can give a donation heaventotheyeah.com. And if you’re a company, if you’re a CEO out there who really wants to make an impact for women, go in, become a sponsor and be part of history. So, Jordan, what’s next for you?
Jordan Gray: Well, so I thought that my season was over, and I went back to a little bit of general prep training, but I got selected sort of last minute to represent Team USA at the Pan American Games. So, at the end of this month, I will be flying down to Chile.
Melyssa Barrett: Nice. Awesome. Well, we will all be rooting for you.
Jordan Gray: Thank you so much.
Melyssa Barrett: I just want to thank you so much for joining me for this conversation. I know you got your shirt on. Let Women Decathlete, you’re wearing the swag, but thank you so much for all you do. Aside from being a world-class athlete, you are an amazing woman and I love to celebrate people who are doing wonderful things in the world, and I just thank you for all you’re doing to push that ceiling a little bit higher.
Jordan Gray: Thank you so much for letting me come on. It’s been a great time.
Melyssa Barrett: Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for joining me on The Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.