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40 greatest female athletes: Florence Griffith-Joyner

6/7/2012
Flo-Jo entered the Seoul Olympics as the transcendent star who raced wearing four-inch, painted fingernails and fashionable track outfits that she designed herself. Getty Images

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

Florence Griffith-Joyner was stylish, graceful and faster than any woman in history.

In the summer of 1988, the No. 12 woman in ESPN's countdown set a pair of world records -- first in the 100 meters (10.49 seconds), then in the 200 meters (21.34) -- that many people believe will never be broken. She won three Olympic gold medals at the Seoul Games, in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay; she also took silver in the 4x400 relay.

"One of the reasons she became so dominant was because of her passion," her former husband Al Joyner says. "She applied herself in everything she did. And it wasn't just running. It was motherhood; it was how deeply she loved. She was second to none in everything she tried."

But Griffith-Joyner, who took up running as a sport when she was only 7 years old, died of epilepsy when she was only 38.

Read the full story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato

No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly

No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi

No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman

No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach

No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher

No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit

No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers

No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz

No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers

No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw

No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres

No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez

No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins

No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva

No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams

No. 20: Figure skater Michelle Kwan

No. 19: Skier Lindsey Vonn

No. 18: Softball player Lisa Fernandez

No. 17: Basketball player Ann Meyers Drysdale

No. 16: Basketball player Sheryl Swoopes

No. 15: Swimmer Janet Evans

No. 14: Figure skater Katarina Witt

No. 13: Basketball player Cheryl Miller