These were not flimsy standards that have been raised up in the continuing competition between Americans and East Germans. Koch, who retired in 1987, and Drechsler coheld the 200-meter mark of 21.71. Indeed, the alabaster-muscled Drechsler was thought to have a chance at a Carl Lewis-like sweep of the sprint, long jump and relay gold medals in Seoul. Yet at the Games, Drechsler and her teammate Silke Gladisch-Möller, the 1987 world champion in the 100 and 200, seemed less prepared than the Americans. And, of course, the East Germans faced a sprinter as light-footed and strong as the world has ever seen.
In the Olympic 100, Griffith Joyner was first in a wind-aided 10.54 and Drechsler third, behind Ashford. Then, last week, came the 200. "This is the one I want more than any," Griffith Joyner said. "The 200 gold and the record."
There was never a group of 200 medalists as arresting as these. Drechsler leaned desperately to seize third from Jamaica's Merlene Ottey in 21.95. Ahead flew Jamaica's Grace Jackson, who came within .01 of a second of the old world record with her 21.72. No one paid any attention, because four meters in front of her was Griffith Joyner. Her 21.34 was an improvement of the world record that rivaled her 10.49 in the 100 in July.
If Griffith Joyner wanted the 200, Joyner-Kersee wanted the long jump. But before the finals last Thursday, she didn't think the signs were good. "Usually after a heptathlon [in which she had set a world record during the Games' first week] I can tell if I'm not going to do well jumping. My quads get tired."
Her quads were tired. "Think indefatigable," she told herself and then watched Drechsler reach 23'8¼" on her fourth jump. Joyner-Kersee's fourth was a foul. She had but two jumps left. On her fifth attempt, Joyner-Kersee went high and long and landed almost perfectly, sitting down into the hole made by her heels, which meant that she had wrung every millimeter of distance from this leap. She had gone an Olympic-record 24'3½".
Joyner-Kersee ran back down the runway with her face in her hands, her emotions soaring from relief to ecstatic tears. "I couldn't be content," she would say, "but, boy, I was happy."
Drechsler was down to her last chance. She squinted into the sun, trying to reassemble the pieces of her competitive heart, finally ran and jumped, reaching only 23'6¼", whereupon she cried.
If there's an honorary member of the Joyner family, it's Drechsler, whom the family feels has been required to compete in too many events. At the press conference after the long jump, Drechsler whispered and joked with Al and Jackie so winningly that observers pined for her to be free to enjoy these stress-bonded friends at a time other than in battle.
Pined, too, for an accurate public perception of the family's deeds in this time of suspicion. Ben Johnson's drug disqualification inevitably cast a film of doubt over the most gleaming Olympic performances. "Hey, it's sad for me," said Joyner-Kersee late last week. "I worked hard to get here. I haven't used drugs. It's time and patience and work. So it's just not fair to point fingers, to blame us all."
"Florence runs 10.49 in the Olympic trials, and people say 'wind,' " said Al. "She does 21.34 here, and they say 'drugs.' "