Florence Griffith Joyner excelled at a sport where there is very little room at the top and where the top is quite rigidly defined. She ran short races. She ran them faster than any woman ever. And she ran them with such flair that she could not be forgotten and her sport could not be ignored. She simply could not be shuffled aside to be just another Whatzhername who ran sprints back when.
They called her FloJo, a neat name that sounds fast and sounds flamboyant. Just right, in this case.
No one in indestructible. Everyone knows that. Yet it came as a great shock Monday when the world found out that FloJo had passed away in her California home at the age of 38. She just didn't wake up that morning. Griffith Joyner won three gold medals in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. She set the world record for the 100 meters in the Olympic trials and the 200 meters in the Olympics themselves. The records still stand. Because of her swift times and increased strength, there were rumors about possible use of performance-enhancing drugs, but she never failed a drug test.
In any event, Griffith Joyner was more than speed. She dazzled in her flashy running suits and decorated six-inch fingernails. After she quit track, she wrote children's books and poems. At various times, she was a beautician, an artist, a model, an actress and a clothes designer. And a mother.
She was a vibrant person, full of life.
Which makes her death especially hard to take.