Meet Flo Jo

The World’s Fastest Woman and resident of Watts

 Olympic Medalist

Synopsis

Florence Joyner, also known as “Flo Jo,” was born in Los Angeles, California, on December 21, 1959. At the 1984 Summer Olympics, Joyner won a silver medal in the 200-meter run. She married fellow athlete Al Joyner, the brother of famed athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee. At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Joyner took home three gold medals and a silver. She and her coach, Bob Kersee, came under media speculation when rumors spread that she might have been using performance-enhancing drugs to improve her times. Joyner died unexpectedly in September 1998, at age 38, after suffering an epileptic seizure. She still holds the world records in the 100- and 200-meter events.

Early Life

Olympian Florence Joyner, known widely as “Flo Jo,” was born Florence Delorez Griffith on December 21, 1959, in Los Angeles, California, and went on to become one of the fastest competitive runners of the 1980s. Joyner began running at the age of 7, and her gift for speed soon became apparent. At the age of 14, she won the Jesse Owens National Youth Games. She later competed for Jordan High School, where she served as the anchor on the relay team, and then went on to race at the college level.

After attending California State University at Northridge, Joyner transferred to the University of California Los Angeles, where she quickly earned a reputation as a track star. She became a NCAA champion in 1982 with a victory in the 200-meter event. The following year, she took the top spot in the 400 meter Coached by Bob Kersee, Joyner made her Olympic debut in 1984, at the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. There, she won a silver medal for the 200-meter run, and became known for her world-record speed, form-fitting bodysuits and six-inch fingernails. A few years later, in 1987, Florence married fellow athlete Al Joyner, the brother of famed athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee (taking the legal name Florence Delorez Griffith-Joyner, she became publicly known as Florence Joyner, or “Flo Jo,” at this time).

Around this time, Joyner selected her husband to serve as a coach, dropping Kersee. She had taken a break from competing after the 1984 Olympics and had just decided to re-enter racing. Before long, however, she began training again for the 1988 Olympic Games under Bob Kersee, the husband of Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Joyner’s hard work paid off at the 1988 Summer Olympics, held in Seoul, South Korea. She took home three gold medals, in the 4-by-100 meter relay, and the 100- and 200-meter runs; as well as a silver medal in the 4-by-400 meter relay.

Joyner’s Olympic performance brought her all kinds of other accolades. She was named The Associated Press’ “Female Athlete of the Year” and Track and Field magazine’s “Athlete of the Year.” Joyner also won the Sullivan Award for best amateur athlete

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