On Sunday she drew the same semifinal heat as Drechsler. And she false-started. This would be Griffith Joyner's one occasion for apprehension during the competition. "I had to sit and be safe, to really wait for the gun then," she said.
Drechsler started well and sprinted on to equal her lifetime best of 10.91. Yet she finished the heat shaking her curls, because Griffith Joyner came in more than two meters ahead of her, with a time of 10.70. "I was so happy," said Al, "I left our stuff to chase her, and someone took the camera."
Unlike most races of this magnitude, the final, thanks to Griffith Joyner, was fun rather than a battle. "Most competitors are so focused they don't want to say hello," she said, "but I'm always chatting. Grace Jackson [of Jamaica] was talking to herself before the start: 'Come on, come on, you gotta do it, Grace.'
"So I said, 'Hey, you will do it.'
"And she said, 'I'm coming after you then. I am.'
"Later, when it was over [Jackson had run a fine 10.97 to place fourth], Grace said, 'You pulled me through.' "
Before all this Al was nervous again. "My heart was drumming hard," he said. "Then she came to the blocks and smiled, and I knew everything would be all right. She was relaxed. If she stays relaxed, no one can beat her."
For the final Griffith Joyner had shed the hood, and her carefully painted nails seemed a sparkling selection of Olympic pins. One carried gold Olympic rings on a red background. Another said U.S.A. One was done in polka dots, and one read GOLD in gold on a blue background.
She adjusted her rear block to feel more comfortable than she had in the semis. She got a terrific start. Her early going was smooth, and she sensed herself in front. Then the race was hers. "It was a 20-year dream," she said. "At that moment I knew everything was worth it. I felt so happy inside that I had it won I just had to let it out."
Her smile began growing at 70 meters, even as she roared away. By 90 meters it was a glorious grin. By 95 she had her arms up celebrating. At 100 the clock stopped at—yes—her ordained 10.54. Alas, the time won't be an official Olympic record, because a tail wind of three meters per second helped the runners. Her 10.62 from the quarterfinals will have to do.