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Florence Griffith began racing when she was seven years old, but was forced to give up sport at nineteen in order to help support her family. Sprint coach Bob Kersee found her working as a bank teller and helped her enroll at U.C.L.A.
At the 1984 Olympic Games, in her hometown of Los Angeles, Griffith won a silver medal at 200m, although her long (15cm) and wildly painted fingernails earned her more attention from the press than her running. After marrying 1984 triple jump Olympic champion Al Joyner, she changed her name to Florence Griffith Joyner and eventually picked up the nickname "Flojo."
On 16 July 1988, at the U.S. Olympic Trials, Griffith Joyner achieved a stunning breakthrough when she ran the 100m in 10.49 seconds, obliterating Evelyn Ashford's record of 10.79. Her time was faster than the men's records in a wide range of countries, including Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Turkey.
At the Olympic Games in Seoul, Griffith Joyner twice broke the Olympic record and then won the final easily in a wind-aided 10.54. Four days later, in the semifinals, she broke the 9-year-old world record for 200m and then, 100 minutes later, she set another world record in the final with a time of 21.34 seconds. Griffith Joyner's records for 100m and 200m have yet to be broken. At the Games in Seoul, she ran in both relays, winning a third gold medal in the 4x100m and a silver in the 4x400m. In 1998, Griffith Joyner died in her sleep at the age of 38, the victim of a form of epileptic seizure that led her to suffocate.