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Sunday, September 27, 1998 Published at 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK


Flo-Jo's 'race in eternity'

An emotional service for Flo-Jo

American sporting stars have turned out in force to pay their last respects to Florence Griffith-Joyner at her funeral in Lake Forest, California.

The former Olympic champion, nicknamed Flo-Jo, died aged 38 last Monday at her home, from a suspected heart seizure.

About 1,500 mourners, including former Olympics athletics champions Bruce Jenner, Gail Devers and Kevin Young and retired tennis player Zina Garrison attended the funeral.

At an emotional service Bob Kersee, her one-time coach, attacked rumours that the track star had ever used performance-enhancing drugs.

"Those tarnishing, poisonous lies can't hurt her no more," he said.

"You don't have to worry about that venomous, deadly scorpion sting of the reporters. It don't hurt her no more. See God is protecting her. See God is her coach now."

Carol Land, a long-time friend of Griffith-Joyner, assailed what she said has become a fixation on discrediting sports stars.

"America has a trait of dishonouring people they had nothing to do with rising," she said.

"If nobody else in America honours her, I can say we did today. She was a woman of virtue. Florence shined a light on America and they didn't give her due."

In a different race

In the funeral service, the Olympic gold medallist was remembered as a woman of deep faith who valued her friends and family above fame and bright lights.

The choir from Second Baptist Church in Santa Ana, where Griffith-Joyner attended, sang several rousing numbers and pop singer Oleta Adams also performed.

"Flo-Jo is now called to run a different race," said Reverend John Nix-McReynolds. "Not a race in time, but a race in eternity."

He recalled how Griffith-Joyner rose from humble beginnings as one of 11 children growing up in the housing projects of Watts to become a world-class sprinter and Olympic champion.

Flo-Jo earned her name as the world's fastest woman at the 1988 games in Seoul, Korea, when she became the first American woman to claim four medals in one year, winning three gold and one silver.

She also set world record times in the 100 and 200 metre races, which still stand a decade later.

She denied using performance-enhancing substances and never failed a doping test.

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