Florence Griffith Joyner
Florence Griffith in 1988
|Full name||Florence Delorez Griffith Joyner|
December 21, 1959|
Los Angeles, California
|Died||September 21, 1998
Mission Viejo, California
|Height||170 cm (5 ft 7 in)|
|Weight||57 kg (126 lb)|
|Event(s)||100 meters, 200 meters|
|Club||Tiger World Class Athletic Club
West Coast Athletic Club
Florence Delorez Griffith Joyner (December 21, 1959 – September 21, 1998), also known as Flo-Jo, was an American track and field athlete. She is considered the fastest woman of all time based on the fact that the world records she set in 1988 for both the 100 m and 200 m still stand and have yet to be seriously challenged. During the late 1980s she became a popular figure in international track and field because of her record-setting performances and flashy personal style. She died in her sleep as the result of an epileptic seizure in 1998 at the age of 38. She attended California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Griffith was born in Los Angeles, California, one of eleven children born to parents Robert and Florence Griffith. The family lived in Littlerock, California before Florence Griffith moved with her children to the Jordan Downs public housing complex located in the Watts section of Los Angeles. As a young child, Griffith would visit her father in the Mojave Desert. Her father dared Griffith to chase jackrabbits, and she was eventually fast enough to catch one.
When Griffith was in elementary school she joined Sugar Ray Robinson Organization, running in track meets on weekends. She won Jesse Owens National Youth Games two years in a row, at ages 14 and 15. Griffith ran track at Jordan High School in Los Angeles. Showing an early interest in fashion, Griffith convinced the track team to wear tights with their uniforms. As a senior in 1978, she finished sixth at the CIF California State Meet behind future teammates Alice Brown and Pam Marshall. Nevertheless, by the time Griffith graduated Jordan High School in 1978, her performances in sprinting and long jump were strong enough to set school records.
Griffith attended the California State University at Northridge, and she was on the track team coached by Bob Kersee. This team also included her teammates Brown and Jeanette Bolden. The team won the national championship Griffith's first year of college. However, Griffith had to drop out in order to support her family, and then she took a job as a bank teller. Kersee was then able to find financial aid for Griffith and she returned to college in 1980, this time at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) where Kersee was then working as a coach.
Brown, Bolden, and Griffith qualified for the 100-meter final at the trials for the 1980 Summer Olympics (Brown winning, Griffith last in the final). Griffith also ran the 200 meters, narrowly finishing fourth, a foot out of a qualifying position. However, the U.S. Government had already decided to boycott those Olympic Games mooting those results. In 1983, Griffith graduated from UCLA with her bachelor's degree in psychology.
Griffith finished fourth in the 200 meter sprint at the first World Championship in Athletics in 1983. The following year she won a silver medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics. In 1985, she won the 100-meter IAAF Grand Prix Final with the time of 11.00 seconds. After the 1984 Olympic Games, she spent less time running. In 1985 Griffith returned to working at a bank and styled hair and nails in her spare time. She married Al Joyner, the Olympic triple jump champion of 1984, in 1987. Upon returning to Athletics at the 1987 World Championships in Rome, Griffith Joyner finished second in the 200 meter sprint. Her success in the 1987 season led to her being ranked second in Track and Field News' 1987 world rankings. The 200-meter remained a stronger event for Griffith Joyner than the 100-meter, where she was ranked seventh in the United States. Ahead of the 1988 Olympic trial, Griffith Joyner continued to work with coach Kersee two days a week with her new husband coaching her three days a week.
In 1988, she was already qualified for the trials at 100-meters based on the 10.96 personal record set in Cologne in 1987. She set a new personal record in the 100 meters in San Diego on June 25, 1988, still shy of then American record holder Evelyn Ashford's three best times. A week before the trials she ran a tune up race in 10.99 in Santa Monica. In the first race of the quarterfinals of the U.S. Olympic Trials, she stunned her colleagues when she sprinted 100 meters in 10.49 seconds, a new world record.[a]  Since 1997 the International Athletics Annual of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians has listed this performance as "probably strongly wind assisted, but recognized as a world record". At the Olympic trials, Griffith Joyner beat Evelyn Ashford's previous world record of 10.76 seconds three times in 24 hours. At the same Olympic trials Griffith Joyner also set an American record at the 200-meter distance with a time of 21.77 seconds.
Following the Olympic trials, in late July 1988 Griffith Joyner left coach Kersee saying she wanted a coach able to provide more personal attention. Another contributing factor was Griffith Joyner's unhappiness with the lack of sponsorship and endorsement opportunities. In addition to serving as coach, Kersee was Griffith Joyner's manager, as he required all the athletes he coached to use his management services too. Griffith Joyner's decision to sign with personal manager Gordon Baskin therefore also necessitated the coaching change. Griffith Joyner left UCLA for UC Irvine with her husband serving as full-time coach.[b] By now known to the world as "Flo-Jo", Griffith Joyner was the big favorite for the titles in the sprint events at the 1988 Summer Olympics. In the 100-meter final, she ran a 10.54, beating her nearest rival Evelyn Ashford by 0.30 seconds. In the 200 meter semifinal, she set the world record of 21.56 seconds and then she broke this record again in winning in the final by 0.38 seconds with her time of 21.34 seconds. No other woman has beaten the 21.56, much less approached the 21.34.
At the same Olympics Griffith Joyner also ran with the 4 × 100 m relay and the 4 × 400 m relay teams. Her team won first place in the 4 × 100 m relay and second place in the 4 × 400 m relay. Their time is still the second fastest in history, following the winner of this race - the winning time by the Soviet team was 3:15.17, which improved the world record by three quarters of a second. This was Griffith Joyner's first internationally rated 4 × 400 m relay. Griffith Joyner won four medals at the 1988 Olympics: three gold and one silver. At the time, Griffith's medal haul was the second most for female track and field athlete in history, behind only Fanny Blankers-Koen with four gold medals in 1948.
In February 1989, Griffith Joyner announced her retirement from racing. The retirement followed Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson's scandal over doping. Griffith Joyner cited her new business opportunities outside of sprinting. The month after announcing her retirement, Griffith Joyner was named winner of the James E. Sullivan Award of 1988 as the top amateur athlete in the United States.
Comeback attempt and other activities
Griffith Joyner's success at the 1988 Olympics led to new opportunities. In the weeks following the Olympics, Griffith Joyner earned millions from endorsement deals, primarily in Japan. Griffith Joyner also signed a deal with toy maker LJN Toys for a Barbie-like doll in her likeness.
In 1996, Griffith Joyner appeared on Charlie Rose and announced her comeback to competitive athletics, only this time to concentrate on the 400-meter run. Her reason was that she had already set world marks in both the 100 m and 200 m events, with the 400 m world record being her goal. Griffith Joyner trained steadily leading up to the U.S. Olympic trials in June. However, tendonitis in her right leg ended her hopes of becoming a triple-world-record holder. Al Joyner was to also attempt a comeback, but he too was unable to compete due to an injured quadriceps muscle.
Among the things she did away from the track was to design the basketball uniforms for the Indiana Pacers NBA team in 1989. Griffith Joyner appeared in the soap opera, Santa Barbara in 1992, as "Terry Holloway", a photographer similar to Annie Leibovitz. Griffith Joyner was also an artist and painter. Her work has been on display as part the Art of The Olympians (AOTO). She is one of two posthumous members of AOTO, the other being the founder and Olympian, Al Oerter.
Beyond her running prowess, Griffith Joyner was known for her bold fashion choices. Griffith Joyner appeared at the World Championships in 1987 in Rome wearing a hooded speed skating body suit. In April 1988 she started wearing a running suit with the right leg of the suit extending to the ankle and the left leg of the suit cut off, a style she called the "one-legger". The running suits also had bold colors such as lime green or purple with white bikini bottoms and embellished with lightning bolts.
Her nails also garnered attention for their length and designs. Her nails were four inches long with tiger stripes at the 1988 Olympic trials before switching to fuchsia. For the Olympic games themselves, Griffith Joyner had six inch nails painted red, white, blue, and gold.
Although many sprinters avoided accessories which might slow them down, Griffith Joyner kept her hair long and wore jewelry while competing. She designed many of her outfits herself and preferred looks which were not conventional.
Allegations of performance-enhancing drug use
In 1988, Joaquim Cruz, the Brazilian gold medalist in the 800-meter run at the 1984 Summer Olympics, claimed that Griffith Joyner's times could only have been the result of using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, that her physique had changed dramatically in 1988 (showing marked gains in muscle mass and definition), and that her performance had improved dramatically over a short period of time. Before the 1988 track and field season, Griffith Joyner's best time in the 100-meter sprint was 10.96 seconds. In 1988, she improved that by 0.47 seconds (or 0.35 sec for the non-wind-aided time). Similarly, her best before 1988 at 200-meters was 21.96 seconds. In 1988, she improved that by 0.62 seconds to 21.34 seconds, another time that has not been approached. Prior to the Olympic games in Seoul, she prematurely cut her European tour short (she had been booed off the track by the spectators). Griffith Joyner attributed the change in her physique to new health programs. Al Joyner replaced Bob Kersee as her coach, and he changed her training program to include more lower body strength training exercises such as squats and lunges.
Darrell Robinson, a former teammate of Griffith Joyner, claimed that he sold her 10 c.c. of HGH for $2,000 in 1988. He said Joyner told him: "if you want to make $1 million, you've got to invest some thousands." Robinson also claimed to receive steroids from coach Bob Kersee, and said he saw Carl Lewis inject himself with drugs he believed to be testosterone. Robinson never provided any evidence for his allegations and was shunned by the athletics community, leading to the premature end of his career.
Griffith Joyner retired from competitive track and field after her Olympic triumph in 1988. She was repeatedly tested during competition, and she passed all of these drug tests. Griffith Joyner made public her decision to retire from Olympic competition one week after it was announced that random out-of-competition drug testing would be instituted during the 1989 season.
After her death in 1998, Prince Alexandre de Merode, the Chairman of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission, claimed that Joyner was singled out for extra, rigorous drug testing during the 1988 Olympic Games because of rumors of steroid use. De Merode told The New York Times that Manfred Donike, who was at that time considered to be the foremost expert on drugs and sports, failed to discover any banned substances during that testing. De Merode later said:
- "We performed all possible and imaginable analyses on her. We never found anything. There should not be the slightest suspicion."
Griffith's nickname among family was "Dee Dee." She was briefly engaged to hurdler Greg Foster. In 1987, Griffith married 1984 Olympic triple jump champion Al Joyner, whom Griffith had first met at the 1980 Olympic Trials. Through her marriage to Joyner she was related to track and field athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Griffith Joyner and Joyner had one daughter together, born November 15, 1990.
On September 21, 1998, Griffith Joyner died in her sleep at home in the Canyon Crest neighborhood of Mission Viejo, California, at the age of 38. The unexpected death was investigated by the sheriff-coroner's office, which announced on September 22 that the cause of death was suffocation during a severe epileptic seizure. She was also found to have had a cavernous hemangioma, a congenital vascular brain abnormality that made Joyner subject to seizures. According to a family attorney, she had suffered a tonic–clonic seizure in 1990, and had also been treated for seizures in 1993 and 1994.
The coroner had requested that Griffith Joyner's body specifically be tested for steroids, but was informed that there was not enough urine in her bladder and that the test could not accurately be performed on other biological samples.
USA Track & Field inducted her into its Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2000, the 102nd Street School in Los Angeles was renamed Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School. Griffith Joyner had attended the school as a child.
Olympic Games and trials results
|100 m||Indianapolis||July 16, 1988||Qualifying heat||10.60||+3.2|
|100 m||Indianapolis||July 16, 1988||Quarter-final||10.49||0.0||WR|
|100 m||Indianapolis||July 17, 1988||Semi-final||10.70||+1.6|
|100 m||Indianapolis||July 17, 1988||Final||10.61||+1.2|
|100 m||Seoul||September 24, 1988||Qualifying heat||10.88||+1.0|
|100 m||Seoul||September 24, 1988||Quarter-final||10.62||+1.0|
|100 m||Seoul||September 25, 1988||Semi-final||10.70||+2.6|
|100 m||Seoul||September 25, 1988||Final||10.54||+3.0|
|200 m||Indianapolis||July 22, 1988||Qualifying heat||21.96||+0.6|
|200 m||Indianapolis||July 22, 1988||Quarter-final||21.77||−0.1|
|200 m||Indianapolis||July 23, 1988||Semi-final||21.90||+2.4|
|200 m||Indianapolis||July 23, 1988||Final||21.85||+1.3|
|200 m||Seoul||September 28, 1988||Qualifying heat||22.51||?|
|200 m||Seoul||September 28, 1988||Quarter-final||21.76||+0.7|
|200 m||Seoul||September 29, 1988||Semi-final||21.56||+1.7|
|200 m||Seoul||September 29, 1988||Final||21.34||+1.3||WR|
|100 m relay ( 4 × 100 m relay )||Seoul||October 1, 1988||Semi-Final||(team time 42.12)|
|100 m relay ( 4 × 100 m relay )||Seoul||October 1, 1988||Final||(team time 41.98)|
|400 m relay split ( 4 × 400 m relay )||Seoul||October 1, 1988||Final||48.08
(team time 3:15.51)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Florence Griffith Joyner.|
- Official website
- Florence Griffith Joyner profile at IAAF
- Florence Griffith Joyner at USATF
- Florence Griffith Joyner at the Internet Movie Database
- Florence Griffith Joyner at AOTO
- Florence Griffith Joyner at Find a Grave
- "10.49 sec - Florence Griffith-Joyner" (video). 100m Women's World Records. Track and Field Video. Indianapolis: SprintIC. July 16, 1988. Archived from the original on Sep 27, 2007.
- "21.34 sec - Florence Griffith-Joyner" (video). 200m Women's World Records. Track and Field Video. Seoul: SprintIC. Sep 29, 1988. Archived from the original on Sep 27, 2007.
- Friend, Tom (Aug 26, 2009). "Dream Chaser". Outside the Lines. ESPN.
Al Joyner feels the presence of Florence Griffith 25 years after Olympic glory. Now, in their daughter, he sees a young Flo Jo
|Women's 100 m world record holder
July 16, 1988 – present
|Women's 200 m world record holder
September 29, 1988 – present
|Awards and achievements|
|United Press International
Athlete of the Year
|Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Ana Fidelia Quirot
||L'Équipe Champion of Champions
|Women's 200 m best year performance