Delorez Florence “Flo Jo” Griffith-Joyner is the fastest woman of all time with track and field records that stand to this day. Along with having exceptional athleticism, she was also known for sporting one-legged body suits and elaborately decorated six-inch nails.
Griffith-Joyner grew up in Watts and lived in the Jordan Downs housing projects; she was one of 11 children from Robert and Florence Griffith. She started running track at the age of seven and won the Jesse Owens National Youth Games two years in a row during her teenaged years.
Griffith-Joyner attended Jordan High School in Los Angeles and set school records in the long jump and sprinting events. She also was the anchor of the relay team. During her senior year, Griffith-Joyner came in sixth in the CIF State Meet. She graduated from Jordan in 1978 and then attended California State University, Northridge.
In 1979, Griffith-Joyner withdrew from Cal State Northridge to help support her family and worked as a bank teller. Track coach Bob Kersee convinced her to run track and she enrolled in UCLA to compete for the Bruins.
The UCLA track team soon became national contenders as Griffith-Joyner led the team to back-to-back NCAA championships in 1982 and 1983. In her junior year in 1982, she became an NCAA champion for the 200m event after running a 22.39s time. She also competed in the Bruins 4x100m relay team and came in third with a 44.02s time.
As a senior, Griffith-Joyner became the NCAA champion in the 400m and set a then record time of 50.94s. She also came in second in the 200m with a 22.42s time and fifth in the 4x100m. That same year, Griffith-Joyner graduated from UCLA with a degree in psychology.
1984 marked the Los Angeles Summer Olympics and Griffith-Joyner qualified to compete for Team USA track and field. Her athletic and fashion prowess came to the forefront as she earned a silver medal in the 200m. Her stylish spandex track suits and decorated nails, along with her speed, caught the attention of spectators.
After the Los Angeles Olympics, Griffith-Joyner retired from sprinting and worked as a beautician along with working at a bank. This was short lived as she returned to the track in 1987 to train for the 1988 Seoul, Korea Olympics.
On October 10, 1987, Griffith-Joyner married gold medalist triple jumper Al Joyner. Joyner is the brother to Olympic great Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
During the U.S. Olympic Trials, Griffith-Joyner made history by breaking the World record for the 100m by running an explosive 10.49s time. During the Olympic games in Seoul, Griffith-Joyner broke the Olympic record for the 100m, running a 10.62s time. She also broke the Olympic and World record in the 200m with a 21.34s time. Her records still hold to this day.
Griffith-Joyner was a member of the 4x100m and 4x400m teams for the Seoul Olympics, winning a gold and silver respectively.
In February 1989, Griffith-Joyner announced her retirement. She went on to pursue acting, fashion, and book writing. That next year, she gave birth to her only daughter Mary Ruth Joyner.
She designed the uniforms for the Indiana Pacers in 1989. Former president Bill Clinton chose Griffith-Joyner to be the co-chair of the President’s Council of Physical Fitness. Griffith-Joyner also made appearances in “227,” “The Nanny,” and other TV shows.
She also established the Florence Griffith-Joyner Youth Foundation in 1992. On September 21, 1998 she suffered a heart seizure and passed away at the age of 38.
Griffith-Joyner was inducted in the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame. She also won several honors, including the Jesse Owens Outstanding Track and Field Athlete and the Sullivan Award for top amateur athlete.