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There were Al and Florence Griffith Joyner, rubbernecking through Seoul's Kimpo Airport, all of 10 minutes in South Korea and already looking for omens, when Al's baggage cart tipped over on Florence's left ankle, bruising her Achilles tendon. "Diary entry," said Florence. " 'Husband keeps me out of the Olympics.' That felt like a refrigerator fell on me."
"But it turned out to be good," Al said later. "She took two days off. I wanted her to take more, she was so ready."
"I stretched and iced and prayed," said Florence.
Ever since she shattered the world 100-meter record with a time of 10.49 in July's Olympic trials, the concern about Griffith Joyner was whether she could come anywhere near that stunning mark in Seoul against the likes of world champion Silke Gladisch-M�ller and Heike Drechsler, both of East Germany. Transitions are trying, and in late July, Griffith Joyner embarked on a big one, relieving Al's brother-in-law, Bob Kersee (page 28), of his duties as her coach and business manager. Gordon Baskin became her manager, and Al her coach. "But in the family everything is the same," says Florence. "I hope Bobby knows it's good for me to move on, like a child leaving the nest."
Following the trials, the Joyners took a quick trip to Europe and then resumed training. "I'm so happy that she didn't chase around Europe for fool's gold," said Al. Instead, she worked on stride drills. "I ran with her a lot because I am about the same height [6'1"] as Drechsler [who's 5'11"]," he said. "She knows that she can match me stride for stride, so she's ready for Heike."
"I can outstride you," said the 5'7" Florence.
"The thing I like is I can't hear her running any more," continued Al. "She has perfected her leg lift to the point where she's pushing off the ground. She's definitely better than she was before the trials."
A week before they left L.A. for the U.S. training camp in Chiba, Japan, Griffith Joyner wrote two times in her diary: 10.62 heat, 10.54 final. Al thought they might be conservative. After her last workout before the Olympic 100, he said, "I looked at her and she looked slow, and I looked at the watch and knew she was ready. Hey, 10.3 wouldn't surprise me."
Griffith Joyner loves the building drama of successive rounds. "I get better each time," she says. In Seoul, she couldn't wear the compelling one-legged bodysuits in which she had broken records at the trials, because Olympic rules required her to stick to the standard-issue uniform. Still, in her first heat she wore a hood—"I don't know if it makes you better," she said, "but it sure makes you look different"—drew away at 50 meters and broke Evelyn Ashford's 1984 Olympic record with a time of 10.88.
In the quarterfinals Ashford got the mark right back, or half of it, turning in a 10.88 of her own. But in the next heat Griffith Joyner shifted to a gear with which only she is familiar and finished in 10.62. Besides being another Olympic record, it was, eerily, the prelim time she had set down in her diary.