Florence Griffith-Joyner - Successful & glamourous

Florence Griffith-Joyner was an athlete who was as glamorous as she was successful on the track.

She has often been dubbed the fastest woman sprinter of all time because her world records in the 100 metres and the 200 metres, set in 1988, have not yet been broken.

She was born in 1959 and from an early age she showed exceptional skill and speed on the track. During the 1980s she became well known for her superb running as well as for her flashy attire and long finger nails which were usually painted in an off-beat manner.

She married triple jump champion Al Joyner and thus became the sister-in-law of Jackie Joyner Kersee who was one of the best all-round athletes that USA has produced.

Florence became known as ‘Flo Jo’ and was one of the favourites for the women’s sprint events ahead of the Seoul Olympics in 1988. In the final she lived up to expectations when she ran the 100 metres in a time of 10.54 seconds and then won the 200 metres also, clocking 21.34 seconds.

But her decision to quit athletics soon after her tremendous success drew a lot of attention. There was a controversy and allegations of drug usage. One of her detractors was the Brazilian Olympic champion runner Joachim Cruz who claimed that Flo Jo’s performances and timings could only have been the result of using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.

But during her career she had gone through extensive testing procedures and come out clean each time.

Tragically, she died in her sleep in 1998 and the cause of her death was said to have been as a result of an epileptic fit. After her death it was disclosed that she had been put through rigorous tests in 1988 because of rumours of drug usage but there was never any evidence of banned substances in any of her tested samples.

Abhijit Sen Gupta