|Full name||Flora Jean Hyman|
July 31, 1954|
Inglewood, California, United States
|Died||January 24, 1986
|Height||6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)|
Hyman was the second of eight children. As a child, Hyman was self-conscious about her rapid growth. She made it a habit to try to hide her size. She hunched when she walked and slouched when she sat. But her mother persuaded her to be proud of it and to use it to her advantage. 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).
When she was 12, she began playing two-on-two tournaments on the beach, usually with her sister Suzanne as partner. By the time Flo was a senior in high school, she had developed a lethal spike.
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".
During her last year at Morningside High, Hyman was recruited by the University of Houston, which offered her a full athletic scholarship. She spent three years there, and led the Houston Cougars to two top-five national finishes.
"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."
Hyman left Houston to play for the national team, based in Colorado. When Hyman joined, the squad was sorely in need of leadership. Operating without a coach, it had a host of talented players with no one at the helm to guide them.
In 1975, the U.S. team floundered through qualifying rounds for the 1976 Olympic games and failed to make it. In 1977, the team gained finished fifth at the World Championships. Hyman and her teammates looked forward to qualifying for and playing in the 1980 Olympics, but their dreams were curtailed when the United States boycotted the Moscow games.
Hyman played in the 1981 World Cup and the 1982 World Championship, when the US 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 US to the silver medal, beaten by China in the final. The United States had defeated them earlier in the tournament.
Straight after the Olympics, Hyman moved to Japan, where she played for the Daiei team. She was so popular in Japan that she began a modeling and acting career there and was constantly in demand. 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.1 Apart from her height, near-sightedness, very long arms and large hands, she showed few other physical symptoms. Hyman's sneaker size was a US size 12. 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.2
Doctors later discovered Hyman's brother had Marfan's Syndrome as well, and he underwent an open heart surgery afterwards. Experts believed Hyman was lucky to have survived as long as she did, playing a physically demanding sport such as volleyball.
She was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California on January 31 1986.
- 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.3
- 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, Girl 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.4