updated 12/26/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/26/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST
Florence Griffith Joyner is also the fastest female sprinter who ever lived, and she made the '88 Olympics her stage. While the guys in the television trucks seemed to be waiting for a tiny Communist to emerge as this year's gymnastics princess, Griffith Joyner was streaking defiantly across the screen to her appointment with stardom. She won three gold medals and a silver in Seoul, capping her performance with an astonishing 100-meter dash. Most sprinters strain to win this race by centimeters. Griffith Joyner, 28, blew the field away by meters. But somehow the simplicity of her speed—to say nothing of the four-inch nails and the four-star personality—obscures the many dimensions of the woman.
The media call her Flo-Jo, but she prefers to be known as Dee Dee, the nickname her mother gave her when she was raising her in a Los Angeles housing project. Under strict upbringing, Dee Dee wasn't even allowed to watch television most nights. So when she wasn't absorbed in homework, she turned her free time to writing, designing clothes and coiffing her friends' hair.
And she ran. First it was with coach Bob Kersee, whom she met at college and followed. Then it was with world-class triple jumper Al Joyner, whom she married. Before the Olympics, she split with Kersee, made her husband her coach and hired an agent. The parting with Kersee and his wife, Dee Dee's sister-in-law, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, was less than amicable. Some thought Florence resented the widespread assumption that Jackie, the Olympic gold medalist in the heptathlon, was the best woman athlete in the world. Lately, though, the breach has been healed.
Griffith Joyner's Olympic bounty includes the predictable offers of product endorsements and three picture deals. Her bankroll already looks as long as those fingernails. But her agent, Gordon Baskin, says that Dee Dee won't be rushing into anything. Off the track, she knows when to slowdown.