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FloJo Remembered At Funeral Service

With an Olympic flag hanging behind the casket, Florence Griffith Joyner was remembered Saturday as a champion who "ran a race faithfully won" and now has God as "her coach."

The two-hour funeral at Saddleback Community Church was filled with a mix of affection and anger over accusations that Griffith Joyner's record victories were aided by banned drugs.

"She stopped by to tell you all those jealous, venomous -- Oh, I'm gonna tell it -- words can't harm me no more," her former coach Bob Kersee shouted from a podium above Griffith Joyner's coffin, which was bedecked with white flowers.

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About 1,500 mourners, including track and field Olympians Bruce Jenner, Gail Devers, Kevin Young, Willie Gault, Johnny Gray and pro tennis player Zina Garrison were among those at the service.

Griffith Joyner, a dazzling, muscular runner known as FloJo, captured three gold medals at the 1988 Seoul Games and set world records that still stand for 100 and 200 meters. She denied using performance-enhancing substances and never failed a drug test.

Griffith Joyner's sudden death Monday at age 38 refueled talk about possible drug use. The cause of death has not been determined.

"I've heard a whole lot

bad things, but I don't hear too many people saying what they've done wrong, what's hindering their performance," said Kersee, whose wife, Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee, is the sister of Al Joyner, Griffith Joyner's husband.

"Florence stopped by here to tell you to take a look at yourself," he said.

Kersee, recalling that Griffith Joyner ran a good race on and off the track, gazed down at Mary Joyner, the 7-year-old daughter of Griffith Joyner and Al Joyner, the 1984 Olympic triple jump champion.

"Mary, your momma wants you to know that those tarnishing, poisonous lies can't hurt her no more," he said. "So 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."

Al Joyner, supported by his sister, Jackie, addressed his wife's casket with his voice cracking and tears in his eyes.

"I keep asking myself why did this happen," he said, pausing to compose himself. "One thing about Florence Griffith Joyner that not everybody saw was she gave unconditional love. She was my dream. I stayed focused on her for seven years until she looked my way."

Looking down at the casket, Joyner said, "I'm going to miss you. I love you."

Telling mourners that Griffith Joyner always wanted Mary to sing, Joyner introduced his daughter, who along with another young girl, performed a song called "When Wind Blew on Me." They received a standing ovation.

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

"America has a trait of dishonoring people they had nothing to do with rising," she said. "If nobody else in America honors 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."

William Hybl, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and Anita De Frantz, vice president of the International Olympic Committee, hailed Griffith Joyner's kindness and will to succeed.

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

© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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Florence Griffith Joyner
A portrait of Florence Griffith Joyner and flowers adorn the casket of the late Olympic track star at Saturday's funeral. (AP)