Monday, January 24, 2011
Celebrity Grave: Olympic Volleyball Medalist Flo Hyman 1986
Flora ("Flo") Jean Hyman (July 31, 1954 in Inglewood, California – January 24, 1986 in Japan) was an American volleyball player and Olympic silver medalist. She died during a volleyball match in Japan, as a result of Marfan syndrome.
Hyman was the second of eight children. She was always the tallest in her grade, and as a child, Hyman was self-conscious about her rapid growth and height, but her mother taught her to be proud of it. Hyman's parents were tall. Her father was 6'1" (1.85 m) tall and her mother 5'11" (1.80 m), but Flo was to outgrow both of them. She stood six feet tall (1.83m) on her 12th birthday and her final adult height, which she reached by her 17th birthday, was just over 6' 5" (1.96 m).
Hyman graduated from Morningside High School in Inglewood, California and then attended El Camino College for one year before transferring to the University of Houston as that school's first female scholarship athlete. She did not complete her final year, focusing her attention on her volleyball career. Hyman said she would graduate once her volleyball career was over and that "You can go to school when you're 60. You're only young once, and you can only do this once."
Contribution to volleyball
"I had to learn to be honest with myself. I had to recognize my pain threshold. When I hit the floor, I have to realize it's not as if I broke a bone. Pushing yourself over the barrier is a habit. I know I can do it and try something else crazy. If you want to win the war, you've got to pay the price."
By 1974, Hyman was a member of the US volleyball team, but the team did not play in the 1980 Olympic Games due to the boycott of the Moscow games. Hyman played in the 1981 World Cup and the 1982 World Championship, when the USA won the bronze medal. A speciality of Hyman was the "Flying Clutchman," a fast, hard-impacting volleyball spike that travels at 110 mph (180 km/h). It was perfected under Dr. Gideon Ariel, a former 1960 and 1964 Olympic shot putter in Coto de Caza, California. At the 1984 Olympics, Hyman, by now both the tallest and oldest member of the team, led the USA to the silver medal, beaten by China in the final. The United States had defeated them earlier in the tournament.
After the Olympics, Hyman moved to Japan, where she played for the Daiei team. In the summer of 1986, she intended to return to the United States permanently, but never got the chance to do so. On January 24, 1986, Hyman collapsed while sitting on the sidelines after being substituted out in a game against Hitachi. She told her team to keep fighting, then moments later slid to the floor and died.
At first, the cause of her death was stated to be a heart attack, but an autopsy carried out in Culver City, California, six days after her death, at the request of her family, discovered that she had a very healthy heart. Instead, Flo Hyman's death was due to an aortic dissection resulting from previously undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, a relatively common genetic disorder that affects more than 1 in 5,000 people. Apart from her height, near-sightedness, very long arms and large hands, she showed few other physical symptoms. Hyman's sneaker size was a USA size 12, (Size 11 UK). There was a three week old blood clot around the tear, indicating that an earlier rip in the same spot had already begun to heal when the fatal second rupture occurred in her aorta.
Doctors later discovered Hyman's brother had Marfan's Syndrome as well, and he underwent open heart surgery afterwards. Experts believed Hyman was lucky to have survived as long as she did, playing a physically explosive sport such as volleyball. She is interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood California.
Three times All American
World Cup Competition, top six players of 1981
Best Hitter, World Cup Competition 1981
Bronze medal in the 1982 World Championship Peru
Silver medal in the 1984 US Olympics
Sports Illustrated November 29, 1999 #69 on greatest woman athletes of the century
The Flo Hyman Memorial Award is named in her honor.
In 1985, Flo Hyman appeared in a film entitled Order of the Black Eagle, in which she portrayed a knife-wielding mercenary named Spike.
The National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), is celebrated in all 50 states with a variety of activities, to remember and honor Flo Hyman. It was created and is supported by Girls Incorporated, Girls Scouts of the USA, the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport, the Women's Sports Foundation and the YWCA of the U.S.A.
1.^ http://www.marfan.org/marfan/2280/About-Marfan-Syndrome|National Marfan Foundation
3.^ Flo Hyman at the Internet Movie Database