Florence Dolorez Griffith Joyner was an American athlete, who is considered to be one of the fastest women of all time. She was also known for being a trend setter on the field, with her fashionable outfits and long nails. She was born in Los Angeles, California on December 21, 1959 and raised in a public housing project. She attended Jordan High School in Los Angeles, where she ran track. While still in high school, she participated in the California State Meet where she finished in sixth place. After high school, Griffith attended the California State University at Northridge where her coach was Bob Kersee, who would later become her brother in law. There she also met her future teammates Alice Brown and Jeanette Bolden. She started training and was doing well but had to drop out of college because of financial issues. She then worked full time as a bank teller to support her family.
Bob Kersee arranged for financial aid for Griffith, so she was able to go back to college and resume training. Griffith and fellow teammates Brown and Bolden were able to qualify for the final trials of the 1980 Summer Olympics, where Brown came first in the 100m race and Griffith came last, unable to qualify. She was also unable to qualify for the 200m race. This result was disappointing, but the results were of no consequence since USA did not participate in the 1980 Olympics. Griffith then transferred to University of California in Los Angeles, after Kersee was offered a coaching position there. She graduated from UCLA in 1982, with a Bachelors degree in psychology.
After graduating from college, Griffith participated in the first “World Championship in Athletics” held in 1983, where she came fourth in the 200m race. In the 1984 Summer Olympics, she won a silver medal in the 200m dash. In 1985, she participated in the IAAF Grand Prix Final, where she won the 100m dash. In 1987, she married the Olympic triple jump champion Al Joyner and the same year she won the silver medal in the 200m race at the 1987 World Championships. The following year, at the trials for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, she set a world record for the 100m sprint with a time of 10.49 seconds. At the Olympic finals, she won three gold medals, that is, 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay races. She also won a silver medal in the 4×200 relay.
Florence Griffith Joyner’s 100m record has been questioned due to the added advantage of wind assistance, although it is officially recognized as a world record. Even her second fastest time of 10.54 in the 100m final of the 1988 Olympics was wind assisted. However, critics do recognize the fact that she also holds the record for wind-legal time of 10.61 seconds, which is unbroken to date. During the same Olympic games, Griffith also set the record for 200m dash, first in the semifinal with a time of 21.56 seconds, and next in the final, with a time of 21.34 seconds. Soon after these tremendous accomplishments, Griffith announced her retirement from professional track racing. Several fans and sports analysts doubted this sudden burst of capability, and alleged that she was using performing enhancing drugs and steroids. She was extensively tested but all her results were clear.
Griffith intended to return to professional track racing and even began training for a comeback in 1996. However, injuries prevented her from doing so. She died unexpectedly at the age of 38 at her home in California. There was an official inquest held, and the cause of death was ruled to be suffocation due to an epileptic seizure. Florence Griffith Joyner was one of the most remarkable athletes of all time, who still holds the world record for 100m and 200m sprints. In 1988, she was honored as “Female Athlete of the Year” by the Associated Press and “Athlete of the Year” by Track and Field magazine.