Florence Griffith Joyner, who had complete control of her body in setting two world records and winning three Olympic gold medals, broke down after learning she had won the Sullivan Award.
The 29-year-old from Los Angeles was in tears Monday night as she accepted the award as the nation's best amateur athlete of 1988."I was real happy. I couldn't control my emotions. I wanted to say thank you to everyone. I was so nervous. I had never been that nervous before," she said. "I was awestruck."
Her husband, 1984 Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner, who became her coach after failing to make the 1988 Olympic squad, tenderly embraced his wife as she spoke.
"I have never seen her that emotional. It was different. She was very taken," said Joyner, who has been married for 17 months and is now being coached by his wife as he seeks to qualify for the 1992 Olympics.
Joyner said his wife, who announced her retirement from competition Feb. 25, didn't think she would be the 59th receipent of the award, which an athlete can receive only once.
"She felt that Matt Biondi would win because he did so well in Korea," Joyner said in reference to the seven medals Biondi captured - two golds in individual competition and three anchoring relays.
"I think this was the best field of finalists ever," said Joyner, whose sister, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, won the award two years ago.
Flo Jo, who is in the process of cashing in on commercial opportunities produced by her Olympic success, is the 35th track and field athlete, the ninth female and the 22nd Californian to get the recognition.