Flora Jean “Flo” Hyman was born July 29, 1954 in Los Angeles. Hyman was always the tallest kid in her class growing up; sprouting to six feet tall by age 12. Not unlike many young girls, Hyman had some self-esteem issues with her height and the long arms and fingers that went with it. Her parents, however, encouraged her to use her gifts to make a difference in her own life and a difference in the lives of others. Hyman eventually grew to 6’5 and went on to play volleyball at the University of Houston as the school’s first female scholarship athlete.
She garnered All-American honors three times while a student- athlete at Houston (1976, 1977, 1978). She was named US Volleyball Association MVP in 1978. Hyman received numerous all-tournament and all-world awards during her volleyball career; culminating in winning a silver medal with the U.S. Olympic Volleyball Team in 1984. After the Olympics, Hyman testified before Congress alongside Coretta Scott-King, former vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, and astronaut Sally Ride in support of the Civil Rights Restoration Act. This legislation requires civil rights laws to be followed in all areas; not just those that receive federal funding. Hyman also accompanied fellow Olympian Cheryl Miller to Capitol Hill to advocate for strengthening Title IX – the landmark legislation which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any government-funded education program or activity.
Hyman is widely considered to be one of the greatest if not the greatest women’s volleyball player of all time. She passed away in 1986 during a match in Japan. Hyman came out of the game during normal substitutions and collapsed on the bench. She died of what is recognized as Marfan Syndrome. Marfan is a genetic disorder which causes people to develop abnormally long limbs and long, thin fingers. This may accompany near-sightedness as well. Marfan patients are also more likely to develop heart disease. In Hyman’s case, she suffered from an aortic dissection or torn aorta. She never knew of her condition and seemed perfectly healthy until her death.
This is the reason why today’s Sportsmanship in Black feature is Sportsmanship in Red. February 4, 2011 is National Wear Red Day. The American Heart Association encourages everyone to wear red today in support of finding new treatments for heart disease in women. Yes, I said women. Did you know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women? More women die of heart disease than the next four causes combined, including all forms of cancer. We all have mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, daughters and friends who need our support and awareness. I’m wearing red today (just look at my profile pic) in support of my wife, daughter and every other woman I know. Flo Hyman was a world-class athlete with a tremendous spirit. Stand for her and the women in your life. Wear red today! Until next time…
Be a Good Sport!
American Heart Association – http://www.heart.org/
Go Red For Women – http://www.goredforwomen.org/