Site hosted by Build your free website today!

A Black Legend

U.S. Olympic Committee
Florence Griffith-Joyner
U.S. Olympic Committee

From Watts to track and field venues around the world she was simply known as FloJo. But her real name was Florence Delorez Griffith Joyner, the triple gold medal winner in the 1988 Olympics games in Seoul, Korea.

Florence rose from the ranks of Nickerson Gardens in Watts to become an all-time great sprinter and one of the greatest Olympic Games females stars since the days of the late Wilma Rudolph (1960 triple gold medal winner in the sprints and 400-meter relay). Florence: In top form

At Nickerson Gardens, Florence started her track and field career as a member of the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation. At 14, she won the Jesse Owens National Youth Games. She has been clocked at 23.5 miles per hour.

From there she went on to fame at Jordan High School, UCLA and as a world class athlete under the tutelage of the great track and field coach, Bob Kersee, the first black track and field coach (women's) in the history of UCLA. He is also credited with making Florence a world record holding performer. She still holds two world sprinting records.
Florence wins again! During the Olympic Games, she painted three of her fingernails red, white and blue and painted a fourth signify her goal.

(Other Kersee-coached athletes include Gail Devers and Jeanette Bolden, presently the women's track and field coach at UCLA. Kersee also coached his sister, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, sister of Florence's husband, Al. Al Joyner was the gold medalist in the triple jump in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.)

Not only did Florence dazzle fans with her stunning speed, she caught their attention with her colorful body suits and her six-inch decorated fingernails. At the 1988 trials, where she ran the three fastest times ever by a woman and set the American record in the 200, she also set standards in track fashion.

Florence with hubby, Al Florence was voted the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for 1988 and also won the Sullivan Award as the nation's top athlete...a most prestigious honor.

After retiring from track in the wake of the Seoul Games, Florence became the first woman to serve as a co-chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness...a 20 member panel. She also began designing and modeling clothes and working with children, both through sports programs and a series of books. Florence announces her retirement from the sports world

Florence's health became a matter of concern in 1996 when she suffered a seizure on an airplane flight from California to St. Louis. She was hospitalized for one day, and the family requested no other details be released.

On Monday, September 21, 1998, Florence was found dead in her sleep by her husband, Al. Initial reports said that she had had another seizure, but the media was quick to revive the 10 year old rumors that she took performance enhancing drugs. Even some experts in the field of steroids were quick to say her muscular physique and astonishing speed weren't "natural".

A member of the men's track and field team told a German magazine that he purchased performance enhancing drugs from Florence. He was paid a reported $25,000 for the interview. But the Olympic Committee called in the WORLD'S most noted doctor in the field of anabolic steroids, who put Florence through SEVENTEEN different drug tests....before, during and after the 1988 Olympic Games. SHE NEVER FAILED ONE.

Four weeks after her death, the Orange County Coroner released his autopsy report on Griffith-Joyner which stated Florence suffocated after a seizure brought on by epilepsy. NO traces of ANY drug residue were found, other than Tylenol and Benedryl. The seizure involved a congenital blood vessel abnormality. Dr. Barbara Zaias said Griffith Joyner had a ``cavernous angioma'' on the front left part of her brain, a condition found in about 25 percent of the population.

Even after this final chapter in her life was written, the rumors of steroid abuse still persist.


Florence deep in thought just seconds before a race Florence started the road to the Olympics at a very young age and trained all her life. During her Olympic career, she had the man many consider to be the best track and field coach in history. Hard work and diligence helped her win her Olympic medals. No one questioned her ability to get a college degree, marry or become a mother. To say she was capable of attaining the goals that she did only with the aid of performance enhancing drugs is not only an insult to her Olympic career but to her life's work and her contribution to her country.

Many men today ADMIT to using anabolic steroids and some are called great American heroes, and let's not forget the many decades Americans (and the world) pointed it's collective fingers at the women from Eastern Bloc countries and made jokes of their muscular features. But THAT was okay, they weren't 'Americans'. Look at the women who compete yearly for bodybuilding titles. Florence was petite in comparison.

Envy and rivalry between countries is normal, and I don't find fault in that. But what I do take offense to the fact this country had for too short a time a true American hero and muddied her accomplishments with controversy.

I read in the feedback column of the Orange County Register where one subscriber wrote in to say that "you only had to look at FloJo to know she was using something". I read that column for a week after Florence's death, and while there were plenty of other wild and unsubstantiated statements, I think that one was the most idiotic I've heard or read to date.

Florence was one of 11 children raised by a divorced mother who was also a school teacher, and who instilled in all of her children the values of a good education, hard work and diligence. Following her home training paid off for Florence. Isn't that enough? Isn't that what we ask of our own children?

Florence Griffith Joyner did the job she was put here to do. She left a husband and a seven year old daughter, who will carry on her legacy. But I hope history is kind...and fair to her also. She deserves it. She gave her all for her sport and her country, now we need to give something back to her....dignity and respect. Rest in peace, won the final race. thanks for another victory

Why do we build our legends up, only to tear them down?

The author is a member of
The HTML Writers Guild

Drop me a line!

<bgsound src="cherish.mid" loop=infinite>

Biographical Information taken from the 'L.A. Watts Times' - 9/24/98, Orange County - 10/22/98
Editorial information by F.D. Reevers - 11/14/98

Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 F.D. Reevers All Rights Reserved