Black News and News Makers in History: Florence Griffith-Joyner

African American news from Pasadena - Black News and News Makers in History recognizes Florence Griffith-Joyner this week in Black history. Florence Griffith-Joyner, a sprinter, considered the "fastest woman in the world", set the world record in both the 100 meter and 200 meter track and field events in 1988.

Florence Griffith-Joyner, born Florence Delorez Griffith, was born December 21, 1959 in Los Angeles.

Throughout the 1980s, she was a popular figure in international track and field due to her record setting performances and charismatic demeanor and flair with her flamboyant running outfits and long, brightly painted fingernails. Her popularity was enhanced further when she married 1984 Olympics champion in triple jumper, Al Joyner, in 1987, becoming the sister-in-law of heptathlon athlete and long jumper Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Known as "Flo Jo", some of her wins include finishing fourth in the 1983 World Championship 200 meter event, silver medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and first place in the 1985 Grand Prix with 11.00 seconds. At the 1987 World Championships, she finished second in the 200 meter event. In the quarter finals of the U.S. Olympic Trials, she set a world record in the 100 meter event with 10.49 seconds. This record may have been wind-assisted. Outside the race, her fastest time without wind assistance was 10.61 seconds—which is still a world record.

At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea, she remained the favorite and, in the 100 meter final event, she won with a 10.54 seconds time and, in the 200 meter quarter final event, she set a world record and broke that record again winning the final by 0.4 seconds with a time of 21.34. She also ran in two relay team events. She won three gold medals and a silver medal. After the Olympics, there was some controversy about whether her improvements were due to new health programs or performance enhancing drugs. The allegations were never substantiated and, some felt the autopsy cleared her of those allegations.

She was the 1988 recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the U.S. and was voted Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year in 1988. Shortly after, she retired.

After she retired from non-professional her track and field competition, she enjoyed the freedom of a non-restricted diet and other health/exercise regimens. Wanting to start a family, her daughter, Mary Beth was born in 1990. Outside interests included modeling, writing and coaching her husband. Additionally, she enjoyed crafts and fashion design. She designed the 1989 basketball uniforms for the Indiana Pacers.

President Bill Clinton appointed her to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger as chair of the President's Council on Physical Fitness in Sports in 1993. This established her as the first woman to receive this position.

On September 21, 1998, she died in her sleep at the age of 38 in her Mission Viejo home. The autopsy announced the cause of death was suffocation during a severe epileptic seizure. The epilepsy, a result of a congenital brain defect called a cavernous angioma, was one of the reasons for her retirement. It was in 1990 that she suffered a grand mal seizure and began treatment for epilepsy in the 1993.

As it happens, her previously recorded week-long appearance on "Hollywood Squares" begin showing on the day she passed away.

In 2000, the Florence Joyner Olympiad Park in Mission Viejo, California was dedicated. She was recognized in the 2002 "100 Greatest Sporting Moments" television special and, in 2004, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

As of 2004, she remains the world record holder over 100 meter and 200 meter sprinting events.

To many, she represented the embodiment of a new ideal for American women. She seemed to possess a perfect combination of strength and beauty. She also had an exemplary record of community service for which she won the 1989 Harvard Foundation Award for outstanding contributions to society.

Compiled from http://sports.jrank.org/pages/1842/Griffith-Joyner-Florence.html, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0431647/bio, www.anothershadeofcolor.com and Wikipedia.


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