|Full name||Flora Jean Hyman|
July 31, 1954|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||January 24, 1986
Matsue City, Japan
|Height||6 ft 5 in (196 cm)|
Early life and education
Hyman was the second of eight children. As a child, Hyman was self-conscious about her size, her rapid growth and the fact that she towered over nearly all of her peers. In 1983 she recalled "When they were three feet tall, I was four foot tall. When they reached four foot tall, I reached five". Her nickname at school was "Jolly green giant", but her family and friends persuaded her to be proud of her height and to use it to her advantage. Hyman's parents were tall. Her father was 6'1" (1.85 m) tall and her mother 5'11" (1.80 m), but Flo outgrew both of them. Her sister recalled Flo being 5'9" tall in the third grade.. Flo's final adult height, which she reached by her 17th birthday, was just over 6'5" (1.96 m). Her shoe size was a size 12 USA men's or an EU 46. In January 1979 Hyman said that she found the stares she got from people irritating but she had learned to live with it.
When she was 12, she began playing two-on-two tournaments on the beach, usually with her sister Suzanne as partner. In 1970, at the age of 16, Hyamn started playing volleyball professionally. By the time Flo was a senior in high school, she had developed a lethal spike.
Hyman graduated from Morningside High School in Inglewood, California and then attended El Camino College for one year before transferring to the University of Houston as that school's first female scholarship athlete. She spent three years there and led the Houston Cougars to two top-five national finishes, but did not complete her final year, instead focusing her attention on her volleyball career. Hyman said she would graduate once her volleyball career was over and that "You can go to school when you're 60. You're only young once, and you can only do this once".
Contribution to volleyball
"I had to learn to be honest with myself. I had to recognize my pain threshold. When I hit the floor, I have to realize it's not as if I broke a bone. Pushing yourself over the barrier is a habit. I know I can do it and try something else crazy. If you want to win the war, you've got to pay the price."
Hyman left Houston to play for the national team, based in Colorado. When Hyman joined, the squad was sorely in need of leadership. Operating without a coach, it had a host of talented players with no one at the helm to guide them.
In 1975 the U.S. team floundered through qualifying rounds for the 1976 Olympic games and failed to make it. In 1977 the team finished fifth at the World Championships. Hyman and her teammates looked forward to qualifying for and playing in the 1980 Olympics, but their dreams were curtailed when the United States boycotted the Moscow games.
Hyman played in the 1981 World Cup and the 1982 World Championship, when the US won the bronze medal. A speciality of Hyman was the "Flying Clutchman", a fast, hard-impacting volleyball spike that travels at 110 mph (180 km/h). It was perfected under Dr. Gideon Ariel, a former 1960 and 1964 Israeli Olympic shot putter in Coto de Caza, California. At the 1984 Olympics, Hyman, by now both the tallest and oldest member of the team, led the US to the silver medal, beaten by China in the final. The United States had defeated them earlier in the tournament.
After the Olympics, Hyman moved to Japan to play volleyball professionally, joining the Daiei women's squad in the Japan Volleyball League. She was so popular in Japan that she began a modeling and acting career there and was constantly in demand. She intended to return to the United States permanently in summer 1986, but never got the chance to do so. On January 24, 1986, Hyman collapsed while sitting on the sidelines after being substituted out in a game against Hitachi in Matsue City. She told her team to keep fighting, then moments later slid to the floor. She was pronounced dead at 9.36 that evening.
At first the cause of Hyman's death was stated to be a heart attack. Not fully accepting this finding, her family requested that an autopsy be performed in Culver City, California. The autopsy, which was held on January 30, dismissed the possibility of a heart attack. It found that Hyman had a very healthy heart, and instead it was determined that she had suffered from undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, which had caused a fatal aortic dissection. Apart from her height, nearsightedness, very long arms and large hands, she showed few other physical symptoms. The pathologist who performed the autopsy, Dr. Victor Rosen, said that Hyman physically had been in superb condition except for a single fatal flaw—a dime-sized weak spot in her aorta. That small spot, less than an inch above her heart, had been there since her birth, and the artery had burst at that point as she sat on the sideline in Matsue. There was a three-week-old blood clot around the tear, indicating that an earlier rip in the same spot had already begun to heal when the fatal second rupture occurred.
Doctors later discovered Hyman's brother had Marfan syndrome as well, and he underwent an open heart surgery afterwards. Experts believed Hyman was lucky to have survived as long as she did, playing a physically demanding sport such as volleyball.
- AIAW National Player of the Year, 1976.
- Three times All American
- World Cup Competition, top six players of 1981
- Best Hitter, World Cup Competition 1981
- Bronze medal, 1982 World Championship in Peru
- Silver medal, 1984 Summer Olympics
- Sports Illustrated November 29, 1999 #69, greatest woman athletes of the century
- The Flo Hyman Memorial Award is named in her honor.
- In 1985, Flo Hyman appeared in a film entitled Order of the Black Eagle, in which she portrayed a knife-wielding mercenary named Spike.
- The National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is celebrated throughout the US to remember and honor Flo Hyman. It was created and is supported by Girls Incorporated, Girl Scouts of the USA, the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport, the Women's Sports Foundation and the YWCA of the U.S.A.
- Vecsey, George (February 5, 1988). "Remembering Flo Hyman". The New York Times.
- "A Tribute to Flo Hyman - Always a Cougar". University of Houston. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
- Demak, Richard (February 17, 1986). "Marfan Syndrome: A Silent Killer". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
- Kessel, John (June 23, 2014). "Please know what Marfan syndrome is" (blog). Team USA Volleyball. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
- Gildea, William (February 3, 1986). "Hyman Was an Athlete Of Strength and Spirit". Washington Post.
- "Volleyball star buried". San Bernardino County Sun. February 1, 1986. p. 41.
- Flo Hyman on IMDb
- "National Girls & Women in Sports Day". National Association for Girls and Women in Sport. Archived from the original on February 2, 2010.