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On This Date in Sports September 29, 1988 Away goes Flo-Jo

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Florence Griffith-Joyner wins her second Gold Medal in Seoul, by setting a world record in the 200 meters at 22.51 seconds. The American track star nicknamed Flo-Jo had previously won the Gold Medal in the 100 meters, setting an Olympic record at 10.54 seconds. Florence Griffith-Joyner would add a third Gold Medal as part of the triumphant American 4×100 relay team and a Silver on the 4×400 team.

Born December 21, 1959, in Los Angeles, Florence Griffith began running track after joining a sports organization won by boxing legend Sugar Ray Robinson. By the time she was 14, she was one of the top junior Olympians in Track and Field and set records in sprinting and the long jump. Attending Cal-State Northridge, Griffith was set to run in the Moscow Olympics in 1980 before the United States led a boycott due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Transferring to UCLA, Florence Griffith remained a top contender in track but managed just a Silver Medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. After the games, she married Al Joyner, who was the first American to win a Gold Medal in the Triple Jump.

The marriage helped boost her career, as she took her husband’s name and got the new nickname Flo-Jo as she prepared for another shot at Olympic glory. There was no doubt that  1988, was the year of Flo-Jo on the track, as she set a World Record in qualifying at the U.S. Trials in Indianapolis in the 100-Meters at 10.49 seconds. Because of her sudden success in 1988, Florence Griffith-Joyner was rumored to be using steroids and was tested several times, without any trace of performance-enhancing drugs in her system.

In Seoul, Florence Griffith-Joyner came to close to setting the mark again on September 24th as she took home the Gold Medal by running in a time of 10.54 seconds as fellow American Evelyn Ashford got the Silver Medal at 10.83 seconds, with Heike Drechsler of East Germany taking the Bronze Medal. Five days later, Flo-Jo who her second Gold Medal, winning the 200 meters in a World Record time of 22.51 seconds as Grace Jackson of Jamaica claimed the Silver Medal with a time of 21.72 which was just a .01 slower than the old world record set by Marita Koch of East Germany, while Dreschler again took the Bronze Medal. Flo-Jo’s record has yet to be topped.

After adding a third Gold Medal as part of the 4×100 relay, and Silver Medal in the 4×400 relay Florence Griffith-Joyner became one of the big stars to emerge from the Olympics with several endorsement opportunities. While she became an Olympic fashion icon, due in part to her long hair and long nails. She also dabbled in acting and fashion, designing uniforms worn by the Indiana Pacers in 1989. After becoming a mother in 1990, Florence Griffth-Joyner attempted to return to the games in the 400 meters in 1992 but failed to qualify during the U.S. Trials.

Sadly, Florence Griffith-Joyner lived with a ticking time bomb in her head, as she began suffering seizures during her pregnancy. Seizures would begin to plague Flo-Jo and eventually caused her death at the age of 38 in 1998.