UNCG Magazine

Race to truth

Still from the documentary "Tainted Blood"

Jill Yesko ’09 joined UNCG’s communications team in 2006 and served as a writer for this very magazine. While caring for her aging father, she also enrolled in the University’s gerontology certificate program.

Jill Yesko '09 at the premiere for "Tainted Blood'

Through both endeavors, she came to know compelling researchers, excellent colleagues, and strong alumni networks. She remembers working on great stories that spanned many departments and programs, a “rich canvas of topics,” and incredible teammates. All the while, she developed her skills in the visual components of storytelling, and that eventually led her to finding “a different kind of storytelling” through documentary filmmaking.

Jill’s previous competitive cycling experience, including racing in the Olympic trials in the early 1980s, got her started on “Tainted Blood: The Untold Story of the 1984 Doping Scandal,” her first documentary, released in 2018 and currently available through Amazon. While the subject is serious, the process of making the film was exciting. Jill, a former reporter, had ample experience in investigative research, and she met many former Olympians while working on “Tainted Blood.” Her subsequent film, “Broken Trust,” was named an official selection at several film festivals in 2020. It tells the story of Olympic and national-class athletes who have spoken up against sexual abuse.

A fellow at the Moody College of Communication’s Center for Sports Communication & Media at the University of Texas, Jill is currently balancing two new documentary projects: “1001 Cuts,” about the systematic sexism and racism experienced by women surgeons, and “Uphill Climb: The Women Who Conquered the Tour de France.”

When describing what is gratifying in the documentary-making process, Jill speaks most about the courage of those she interviewed, and how inspired she was by their willingness to help her relay truth through filmmaking.

By Susan Kirby-Smith
Courtesy photography

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