FLORENCE GRIFFITH JOYNER
Griffith Joyner was accomplished and flashy, characteristics of
a true sports hero of the 1980s. While fans remember her gold medals
and world records she earned as a runner, they also can not forget
her 6-inch-long, elaborately painted fingernails or her signature
running outfits that teased audiences all over the globe with the
view of a single bare leg.
the world's fastest woman had a variety of professions that distinguished
her from the typical athlete. She was a children's book writer,
a hair braider, a model, an actress, a fashion designer, and briefly,
a bank secretary.
matter what role she played, the woman known as Flo Jo was always
swift on her feet. According to her husband, the Olympic triple-jump
gold medalist Al Joyner, her speed revealed itself at the age of
five, when her father dared her to catch a jackrabbit, a feat she
performed easily. By the time she was seven, Flo Jo was running
track. At the age of 14, she won the Jesse Owens National Youth
Games. Before graduating in 1978, she had broken Los Angeles Jordan
High School's records in sprints and long jump.
Flo Jo's tenure at UCLA, her meteoric speed earned her the 1982
NCAA title in the 200-meter dash. Only two years afterward, she
realized her dream of becoming an Olympic medalist with her second-place
finish in the 200-meter run.
seems like she ran straight out of her childhood in a Los Angeles
ghetto and into the international spotlight. But she was more human
than that. She stumbled along the way, moving into the bank secretary
position and gaining up to 60 pounds, according to Jackie Joyner
Kersee, Flo Jo's sister-in-law and Olympic gold medalist in heptathlon
and long jump. It was Kersee's badgering that prompted Flo Jo to
get back to the gym.
the 1988 United States Olympic Trials, Flo Jo scored a comeback
that was made all the more heroic by the fact that she'd strayed
from the sport. The 200-meter dash medalist set a new world record
for the 100-meter dash, finishing the race in 10.49 seconds and
shaving an astonishing 2.7 seconds off Evelyn Ashford's best time
of 10.76. It is a record that still holds today.
the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Flo Jo topped off her track career with
three gold medals for the 100, 200, and 400-meter races, as well
as a silver medal for the 1600-meter relay. Her time for the 200-meter
run at the Seoul games is a world record that has yet to be broken.
1998 death from an epileptic seizure at the age of 38 only added
to Flo Jo's mythical status. She was a legend who died young - before
time could wear away her athletic skills and other sports heroes
could shatter her world records. In the minds of the public, Flo
Jo will always remain at the peak of her career: strong, beautiful