Florence Griffith Joyner

  • Born: December 21, 1959
  • Died: September 21, 1998
  • Location: Lake Forest, California


Florence Griffith Joyner near her California home, 1996

Olympic gold medalist in the track 100 and 200 meter events

Florence Griffith-Joyner (born Delorez Florence Griffith), also known as Flo-Jo was an American track and field athlete. She holds the world records in the 100 m and 200 m races. She was the wife of track star Al Joyner and the sister-in-law of Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Joyner died at they young age of 38 as a result of a brain abnormality discovered during the autopsy that made her subject to seizures. It was a congenital defect, having developed before birth. In 1990 she had, according to a family attorney, suffered a grand mal seizure and had been treated for seizures in 1990, 1993 and 1994. The direct cause of death was that she had suffocated in her pillow during a severe epileptic seizure.

Born in Los Angeles and raised in the Jordan Downs public housing complex, Griffith Joyner began racing when she was seven years old, but was forced to give up sport at nineteen in order to help support her family. Sprint coach Bob Kersee later encouraged her resume running and enroll at U.C.L.A.

At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Griffith won a silver medal at 200m, although her long (15cm) and wildly painted fingernails earned her more attention from the press than her running.

On July 16,1988 at the U.S. Olympic Trials, Griffith Joyner achieved a stunning breakthrough when she ran the 100m in 10.49 seconds, obliterating Evelyn Ashford's record of 10.79. Her time was faster than the men's records in a wide range of countries, including Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Turkey.

At the 1998 Seoul Olympics, Griffith Joyner twice broke the Olympic record and then won the final easily in a wind-aided 10.54. Four days later, in the semifinals, she broke the 9-year-old world record for 200m and then, 100 minutes later, she set another world record in the final with a time of 21.34 seconds. Griffith Joyner's records for 100m and 200m have yet to be broken. At the Seoul Games, she ran in both relays, winning a third gold medal in the 4x100m and a silver in the 4x400m.

Joyner was the 1988 recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. She retired from competitive sports shortly afterwards. Among the things she did away from the track was design the basketball uniforms for the Indiana Pacers.