Swimmer Matt Biondi, winner of five gold medals at the Seoul Olympics, and Florence Griffith Joyner, who capped a glittering season with three golds, were named as UPI's International Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year for 1988.
Swede Mats Wilander, winner of three Grand Slam tennis titles, was runner-up to Biondi in a poll of European sports editors, while West German Steffi Graf, winner of the 1987 poll, was second in the women's voting after an incredible season in which she won all four Grand Slam titles plus the Olympic gold.Biondi, 23, of Moraga, Calif., traveled to Seoul burdened by comparison with Mark Spitz's feat of winning seven gold medals in the 1972 Munich Olympics. Then he got off to a disappointing start, settling for the bronze in the 200-meter freestyle.
In his next race, the 6-foot-7 Californian was leading with meters to go in the 100-meter butterfly final, and he chose to coast to the touch. This allowed Suriname's Anthony Nesty to steal the gold medal by one hundredth of a second.
Biondi reacted to this adversity by winning the 100 and 50-meter freestyles and he added three more gold on relay teams. In the process, he set four world marks and an Olympic record in the 100 free.
Griffith Joyner, like Biondi, went to Seoul with such strong credentials that many saw the business of heats and finals as a mere interlude before she could collect her gold medals. In July, she had smashed Evelyn Ashford's 100 meters record by more than a quarter of a second, clocking 10.49 at Indianapolis.
At Seoul, Griffith Joyner, who turns 29 Wednesday, won the 100 meters, 200 meters (in which she won silver at Los Angeles four years earlier) and 4 x 100 meters relay.
In the semifinals of the 200 she set a world mark of 21.56 seconds, lowering the standard of 21.71 clocked by East Germans Marita Koch and Heike Drechsler. In the final, she swept to gold in 21.34.
Track star Carl Lewis, diver Greg Louganis and boxer Mike Tyson, all of the United States, placed third, fourth and fifth in the men's balloting.
Among the women, swimmer Kristin Otto of East Germany was third, followed by figure skater Katerina Witt of East Germany and heptathlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee of the United States.