Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Florence Griffith-Joyner

Florence Griffith-Joyner

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Florence Griffith-Joyner'
Start a new discussion about 'Florence Griffith-Joyner'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Florence Griffith-Joyner (born Florence Delorez Griffith), also known as Flo-Jo (December 21, 1959 – September 21, 1998) was an American
Americans
The people of the United States, also known as simply Americans or American people, are the inhabitants or citizens of the United States. The United States is a multi-ethnic nation, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds...

 track and field
Track and field
Track and field is a sport comprising various competitive athletic contests based around the activities of running, jumping and throwing. The name of the sport derives from the venue for the competitions: a stadium which features an oval running track surrounding a grassy area...

 athlete. She is considered the "fastest woman of all time" based on the fact that she still holds the world record for both the 100 metres
100 metres
The 100 metres, or 100-metre dash, is a sprint race in track and field competitions. The shortest common outdoor running distance, it is one of the most popular and prestigious events in the sport of athletics. It has been contested at the Summer Olympics since 1896...

 and 200 metres
200 metres
A 200 metres race is a sprint running event. On an outdoor 400 m track, the race begins on the curve and ends on the home straight, so a combination of techniques are needed to successfully run the race. A slightly shorter race, called the stadion and run on a straight track, was the first...

, both set in 1988 and never seriously challenged. She died of epilepsy
Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain.About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly two out of every three new cases...

 in 1998 at the age of 38.

Life


Griffith was born in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 and raised in the Jordan Downs
Jordan Downs, Los Angeles, California
Jordan Downs Housing Projects is a 700-unit public housing apartment complex in Watts, Los Angeles, California next to David Starr Jordan High School. It consists of 103 buildings with townhouse style units ranging in size from one bedroom to five bedrooms. The complex is owned and managed by the...

 public housing complex. 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 was the wife of triple jumper Al Joyner
Al Joyner
Alfredrick Alphonzo Joyner is an American athlete, who was Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump.Joyner was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. He was married to the late Florence Griffith-Joyner, a multiple Olympic medal-winning sprinter; their daughter is Mary Ruth Joyner. His sister Jackie...

 and the sister-in-law of heptathlete
Heptathlon
A heptathlon is a track and field athletics combined events contest made up of seven events. The name derives from the Greek hepta and athlon . A competitor in a heptathlon is referred to as a heptathlete.-Women's Heptathlon:...

 and long jumper Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Jacqueline "Jackie" Joyner-Kersee is a retired American athlete, ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in the women's heptathlon as well as in the women's long jump. She won three gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals, in those four different events...

.

Griffith finished fourth in the 200 m at the inaugural World Championship
1983 World Championships in Athletics
The inaugural World Championships in Athletics were run under the auspices of the International Association of Athletics Federations and were held at the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, Finland between August 7 and August 14, 1983....

 in 1983. The following year she gained much more attention, though mostly because of her extremely long and colorful fingernails rather than her silver medal
Silver medal
A silver medal is a medal awarded to the second place finisher of contests such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and contests with similar formats....

 in the Los Angeles Olympics
1984 Summer Olympics
The 1984 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Los Angeles, California, United States in 1984...

 200 m. In 1985, she won the final of the Grand Prix with 11.00 seconds. After these Olympics she spent less time running, and married the 1984 Olympic triple jump
Triple jump
The triple jump is a track and field sport, similar to the long jump, but involving a “hop, bound and jump” routine, whereby the competitor runs down the track and performs a hop, a bound and then a jump into the sand pit.The triple jump has its origins in the Ancient Olympics and has been a...

 champion Al Joyner
Al Joyner
Alfredrick Alphonzo Joyner is an American athlete, who was Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump.Joyner was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. He was married to the late Florence Griffith-Joyner, a multiple Olympic medal-winning sprinter; their daughter is Mary Ruth Joyner. His sister Jackie...

 in 1987.

Returning at the 1987 World Championships
1987 World Championships in Athletics
The 2nd World Championships in Athletics under the auspices of the International Association of Athletics Federations were held in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy between August 28 and September 6, 1987.-Track:1983 | 1987 | 1991 | 1993 | 1995...

, she finished again second in the 200 m. She stunned the world when — known as a 200m runner — she ran a 100m World Record
World record
A world record is usually the best global performance ever recorded and verified in a specific skill or sport. The book Guinness World Records collates and publishes notable records of all types, from first and best to worst human achievements, to extremes in the natural world and beyond...

 of 10.49 in the quarter-finals of the US Olympic Trials. Several sources indicate that this time was very likely wind-assisted
Wind assistance
Wind assistance is a term in track and field, which refers to the wind level during a race or event as registered by a wind gauge. Wind is one of many forms of weather which can affect sport....

. Although at the time of the race the wind meter at the event measured 0.0, indicating no wind, observers noted evidence of significant wind, and wind speeds up to 7 meters/second were noted at other times during the event. Since 1997 the International Athletics Annual of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians has listed this performance as "probably strongly wind assisted, but recognised as a world record". Griffith-Joyner's coach later stated that he believed the 10.49 run had been aided by wind. Outside this race, Griffith-Joyner's fastest time without wind assistance was 10.61 seconds, which would give her the world record anyway.

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
1988 Summer Olympics
The 1988 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIV Olympiad, were an all international multi-sport events celebrated from September 17 to October 2, 1988 in Seoul, South Korea. They were the second summer Olympic Games to be held in Asia and the first since the 1964 Summer Olympics...

. In the 100 m final, she ran a wind-assisted 10.54, beating her nearest rival Evelyn Ashford
Evelyn Ashford
Evelyn Ashford is a retired American athlete, the 1984 Olympic champion in the 100 m. She has run under the 11 second barrier over 30 times and was the first to run under 11 seconds in an Olympic Games.As a 19-year-old, Ashford finished 5th in the 100 m event at the 1976 Summer Olympics...

 by 0.3 seconds. In the 200 m quarter-final, she set a world record and then broke that record again winning the final by 0.4 seconds with a time of 21.34. She also ran in the 4 x 100 m and 4 x 400 m relay teams. She won a gold medal
Gold medal
A gold medal is typically the medal awarded for highest achievement in a non-military field. Its name derives from the use of at least a fraction of gold in form of plating or alloying in its manufacture...

 in the former event, and a silver in the latter (which is still the second fastest time in history behind the winner of that race), her first international 4 x 400 m relay. Her effort in the 100 m was ranked 98th in British TV Channel 4's 100 Greatest Sporting Moments in 2002. She was the 1988 recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award
James E. Sullivan Award
The James E. Sullivan Award, presented by the American Amateur Athletic Union , is awarded annually in April to "the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States". Often referred to as the Oscar of sports awards, it was first presented in 1930. The award is named for the AAU's founder and past...

 as the top amateur athlete in the United States. Griffith-Joyner retired from competitive sports shortly afterwards.

In 1996, Griffith-Joyner appeared on the Charlie Rose show and announced her comeback to competitive athletics, only this time in the 400m. Her rationale was she had already set world marks in both the 100 and 200 meter events, with the 400 world record being her goal. Griffith-Joyner trained steadily leading up to the June US Olympic trials, however tendinitis 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 design the basketball uniforms for the Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers are a professional basketball team based in Indianapolis, Indiana. They are members of the Central Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Basketball Association...

 in 1989.

Death


On September 21, 1998, Griffith-Joyner died in her sleep at the age of 38. The unexpected death was investigated by the sheriff-coroner
Coroner
A coroner is a government official who* Investigates human deaths* Determines cause of death* Issues death certificates* Maintains death records* Responds to deaths in mass disasters* Identifies unknown dead* Other functions depending on local laws...

's office, which announced on October 22 that the cause of death was suffocation during a severe epileptic seizure. She was also found to have had a cavernous angioma
Cavernous angioma
Cavernous angioma, also known as cerebral cavernous malformation , cavernous haemangioma, and cavernoma, is a vascular disorder that alternately has been classified as neoplastic or hamartomatous. It is characterized by grossly dilated blood vessels with a single layer of endothelium and an...

, a congenital brain abnormality that made Joyner subject to seizures. According to a family attorney, she had suffered a grand mal seizure
Tonic-clonic seizure
Tonic–clonic seizures are a type of generalized seizure that affects the entire brain...

 in 1990, and had also been treated for seizures in 1993 and 1994.

Controversy


Aside from whether her 1988 Olympic trial world record was wind-aided, Griffith-Joyner was dogged by rumors of drug use.

In 1988, Joaquim Cruz
Joaquim Cruz
Joaquim Carvalho Cruz is a former Brazilian athlete, winner of the 800 m at the 1984 Summer Olympics. He is one of only four men to run the 800 m in less than 1:42....

, Brazilian
Brazil at the 1984 Summer Olympics
Brazil competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, United States.- Silver:* Douglas Vieira — Judo, Men's Half Heavyweight * Ricardo Prado — Swimming, Men's 400m Individual Medley...

 gold medalist in the 800 meters at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics
1984 Summer Olympics
The 1984 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Los Angeles, California, United States in 1984...

 claimed that Griffith-Joyner's times could only have been the result of using steroids
Anabolic steroid
Anabolic steroids, technically known as anabolic-androgen steroids or colloquially simply as "steroids", are drugs that mimic the effects of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone in the body. They increase protein synthesis within cells, which results in the buildup of cellular tissue ,...

 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 season, Griffith Joyner's best 100 meter time 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 pre-1988 best at 200 meters was 21.96. In 1988 she improved that by 0.62 seconds to 21.34, another time which has not been approached. Griffith-Joyner attributed the change in her physique to new health programs. Al Joyner
Al Joyner
Alfredrick Alphonzo Joyner is an American athlete, who was Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump.Joyner was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. He was married to the late Florence Griffith-Joyner, a multiple Olympic medal-winning sprinter; their daughter is Mary Ruth Joyner. His sister Jackie...

 replaced Bob Kersee
Bob Kersee
Bob Kersee is a famous and successful American track coach, husband, and coach of, among others, Jackie Joyner-Kersee....

 as her coach, and changed her training program to include more lower body strength training exercises like squats and lunges.

She retired from competitive track and field after her 1988 Olympic triumph. Griffith-Joyner was tested during competition and did not fail any drug tests. After her death in 1998, Prince Alexandre de Merode, chairman of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission claimed that Joyner was singled out for rigorous drug testing during the 1988 Seoul Olympics because of steroid rumors. He told the New York Times that Manfred Donike
Manfred Donike
Manfred Donike was a German cyclist and chemist, known for his research on doping. Donike lived in Rölsdorf....

 at the time considered the foremost expert on drugs and sports, failed to discover even minute traces of banned substances during the testing.

Track athletes commonly retired in their late 20s, and her husband stated that Griffith-Joyner was never interested in being a career sprinter, found the early nights and no-junk-food diet restrictive, and wanted to start a family as well as pursue interests in fashion design and crafts.

Griffith-Joyner's supporters claimed that the autopsy cleared her of allegations that she used performance-enhancing drugs. The Orange County coroner's office noted that the autopsy records showed that she did not die from drugs or banned substances and that tissue and organ tests revealed none of the changes associated with recent steroid use. Her husband 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.

External links