Before the U.S.Olympic trials in July 1988, athlete Florence Griffith Joyner was better known for her flair for fashion than for her feats on the track. That changed, when in the space of two days, she broke the world record of 10.76 seconds in the 100 m four times. Her best timing was 10.49 seconds. She earned the unofficial title of fastest woman in the world.
Florence or 'Flo Jo' as she was called, brought a glamour to the track that had never been seen before, with her flowing shoulder-length hair, striking make-up and ten-inch long painted fingernails. She wore specially-designed see-through body suits, or one-legged leotards and bikini briefs in fluorescent colours. "Looking good is almost as important as running well,"she once said.
Florence began running at the age of 7. After winning the silver medal in the 200 m at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, she went into semi-retirement. She made a comeback in 1987 at the World Athletics Championship in Rome. In the Seoul Olympics in 1988, Florence won gold medals in the 100 m, the 200 m, the 4x100 m relay and the silver in the 4x400 m relay. She broke the world record in the 200 m twice, with a 21.34 sec timing in the final.
After the Olympics, she was inundated with offers for product endorsements, publishing ventures and movie and television projects. They earned her an estimated $4 million in 1989, the year she announced her retirement from the track. She continued coaching her husband Al Joyner, an Olympic gold medalist in the triple jump (1984) and pursued an acting and modelling career.
'Flo Jo' died suddenly of cardiac arrest in 1998, at the young age of 39.