Florence Joyner made her Olympic debut in 1984, at the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. There, she won a silver medal for the 200-meter run, and became known for her world-record speed, form-fitting bodysuits and six-inch fingernails. A few years later, in 1987, Florence married fellow athlete Al Joyner, the brother of famed athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee (taking the legal name Florence Delorez Griffith-Joyner, she became publicly known as Florence Joyner, or “Flo Jo,” at this time).
Around this time, Joyner selected her husband to serve as a coach, dropping Kersee. She had taken a break from competing after the 1984 Olympics and had just decided to re-enter racing. Before long, however, she began training again for the 1988 Olympic Games under Bob Kersee, the husband of Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Joyner’s hard work paid off at the 1988 Summer Olympics, held in Seoul, South Korea. She took home three gold medals, in the 4-by-100 meter relay, and the 100- and 200-meter runs; as well as a silver medal in the 4-by-400 meter relay.
Joyner’s Olympic performance brought her all kinds of other accolades. She was named The Associated Press‘ “Female Athlete of the Year” and Track and Field magazine’s “Athlete of the Year.” Joyner also won the Sullivan Award for best amateur athlete.
After the 1988 Olympics, Joyner retired from competition. Suspicions soon arose regarding how the so-called “world’s fastest woman” achieved her victories. Joyner and her coach, Bob Kersee, came under media speculation when another athlete suggested that Joyner had used performance-enhancing drugs. Some attributed the substantial improvements Joyner made in her performance levels from 1984 to 1988 to illegal substances. Others thought that her incredibly muscular physique had to have been created with the help of performance enhancing drugs.
Rumors also spread regarding Bob Kersee’s training techniques, suggesting that he could have been encouraging his runners to use steroids or other drugs in order to win medals. Joyner always insisted that she never used performance enhancers, however, and she never failed a drug test. In fact, according to CNN.com, Joyner took and passed 11 drug tests in 1988 alone.
Joyner still holds the world records in the 100- and 200-meter events, with times of 10.49 seconds and 21.34 seconds, respectively.