Besides being acknowledge as the “world’s fastest woman” of all-time for breaking records in her favorite 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, Florence Griffith Joyner also make it known to all and sundry that a woman can be flashy, beautiful, glamorous and, at the same time, be an athlete.
Twenty-nine years ago today in Seoul during the first Olympic Summer Games held in the Orient since the 1964 Olympic, Griffith Joyner, “FloJo” to the athletics world, completed a sweep of the 100 and 200 runs as she became the queen the track and the toast of the ever four-year conclave.
Having topped the US Olympic trials in her events months before flying to the South Korean capital, FloJo, was the big favorite for the title Sprint Queen. She ran the 100-metr final in a fast 10.54 seconds, beating her nearest rival, fellow American Evelyn Ashford, by 0.30 seconds.
One-hundred minutes later In the semifinal of the 200-meter she shattered the nine-year-old world mark 21.74 seconds with a new record of 21.56, which she broke anew for the second time in the same day reaching the finish line 0.22 seconds faster in 21.34 seconds clocking.
She returned to the track a day later helping the US 4×100 relay team to another gold and the 4×400 to silver medal. The 4×400 rely was Griffith Joyner’s first race in that event.
FloJo left the Games having won four Olympic medals, three gold and a silver, then the second most for female track and field athlete in history, behind Fanny Blankers-Koen who won four gold medals in 1948.
The athletics hostilities in the Seoul Games were actually a family affair. On that September 29, 1988 day, FloJo’s sister-in-law Jackie Joyner Kersee, who ruled the heptathlon earlier in the competitions, fashioned out a golden double by emerging victor, too, in the long jump.
Until her triple gold showing in Seoul, the name Florence Griffith Joyner was only a track and field buff would have recognized. She had been a silver medallist in the 200 meters at the Los Angeles Olympics four years earlier in 1984 and at the 1987 World Track and Field Championships in Rome.
But in the Olympic trials held in July 1988 in Indianapolis, dressed as if heading for Las Vegas, bringing wardrobe of more than 200 racing outfits, the customer service representative at a Los Angeles bank, ran the 100 meters in 10.49 seconds, an astonishing .27 seconds faster than the world standard, followed by a no-less dominant performance in the 200 meters.
In track and field, no such level of achievement is accomplished without questions. From Indianapolis to Seoul and back to L.A., FloJo faced the innuendo that her performances were drug-enhanced. She and her husband Al Joyner, a triple jump gold medallist at the 1984 Games, attested though that every drug test she had ever taken had returned negative results.
FloJo’s star had just been barely shone when in February 1989, less than two months after her 29th birthday, she announced her retirement. Two years later, she gave birth to a daughter Mary Ruth.
If she had merely ran fast, none of the notoriety and hype would have occurred. But FloJo was beautiful and athletically gifted. Her long, brightly painted, talon-like fingernails augmented her vivid red-colored running uniforms.
FloJo always dressed herself for success, which exactly was what she did.
Ten years following her Olympic heroics on September 21, 1998, Florence Griffith Joyner died of an epileptic seizure. She remains the fastest woman in history up to this day.