Monday, July 4, 2022
Women’s History Month: America’s Golden Girls
By Jason Lewis (Sports Editor)
Published March 23, 2011

Florence Griffith-Joyner (left) and Jackie Joyner-Kersee are two of the most celebrated female athletes in American sports history.


Florence Griffith-Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee combined for five gold medals in dominating fashion at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. 

By Jason Lewis
Sports Editor
[email protected]

Every event that Florence Griffith-Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who were sisters-in-law, touched in the 1988 Seoul Olympics turned to gold, as the two set world records that still have not been broken, nearly 23 years later.

Griffith-Joyner set world records in the 100 and 200-meter dashes that year and Joyner-Kersee set the world record in the heptathlon, which is a grueling seven sport event, consisting of the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin, and 800-meter race.  None of their records have been challenged by any other woman. 

Griffith-Joyner also took the gold medal in the 4×100 meter relay and Joyner-Kersee in the long jump.  She also took the gold medal in the heptathlon in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. 

Both women have strong ties to Los Angeles.


Griffith-Joyner was born and raised in Los Angeles.  She grew up in the Jordan Downs housing projects, and she graduated from Jordan High School in 1978.  She attended CSU Northridge for two years, and then graduated from UCLA in 1983 with a degree in psychology. 

Griffith-Joyner turned heads with her flashy style, one of kind outfits and long painted fingernails, but she is remembered for being the fastest woman ever. 

After winning a silver medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Griffith-Joyner turned in super human feats in 1988. 

In the quarterfinals of the 1988 Olympic trials in Indianapolis, Griffith-Joyner blew away the field, clocking in at a mind blowing 10.49 seconds, which set the world record.  Since then no woman has broken 10.60. 

At the Seoul Olympics, Griffith-Joyner painted her fingernails red, white and blue.  She painted a fourth gold to signify her goal of winning a gold medal.  She achieved that goal by running a 10.54 second gold medal winning 100-dash. 

Griffith-Joyner also set the world record in the 200-meter dash in Seoul, winning the gold medal with a time of 21.64. 

The Associated Press named her Female Athlete of the Year for 1988.  She also won the Sullivan Award as the nation’s top athlete. 

After the Seoul Olympics, Griffith-Joyner retired from track and later served as the co-chair of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness.

In 1998, at the age of 38, Griffith-Joyner died in her sleep after suffocation during a severe epileptic seizure.  She left behind her husband, Al Joyner, who won the gold medal in the triple jump at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and their daughter Mary Ruth. 

Griffith-Joyner’s sister-in-law, Joyner-Kersee, was equally as dominant at the Seoul Olympics.  She set the world record by scoring 7,291 in the heptathlon, and still holds the top five scores ever.  

Joyner-Kersee was born in East St. Louis, and went on to be a star athlete at UCLA, where she starred in both track and basketball.  She was a starter at forward in each of her first three seasons, and as a fifth year senior.  She had a red-shirt season during the 1983-84 academic year to concentrate on the heptathlon for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics; where she took a silver medal. 

Joyner-Kersee’s greatest performance was at the 1988 Olympics, but she was not finished at that point.  She went on to take the gold medal in heptathlon at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, along with a bronze in the long jump.  She also took a bronze medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the long jump.

Sports Illustrated for Women magazine voted Joyner-Kersee the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th century.  In 2001 she was voted the Top Woman Collegiate Athlete of the Past 25 Years. 

Looking back at 1988, Florence Griffith-Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee were two black women who were way ahead of their time.  Women have been attempting to run down their feats for years. 


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