In honor of Women’s History Month, I’ve decided to dedicate this month’s #ThrowbackThursday posts to female athletes who have inspired me over the years or have had an immense impact on the sports world. Today’s post is about a woman who’s done both, Florence Griffith-Joyner aka Flo Jo aka the fastest woman on earth.
While the world marveled at Flo Jo’s unbelievable speed, as a young girl, I was captivated by her beautiful smile, wild mane, sculpted body, signature nails that were at least 4″ in length and stylish one-legged leotard, of course. During the late 1980s, it was rare to see beautiful black women take center stage as the whole world watched along in anticipation of witnessing history. However, before Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps were must see TV at the Olympics, Flo Jo owned that title and those moments. Throughout her short professional career, Flo Jo won 3 Olympic Gold and 2 Olympic Silver medals. Twenty five years later, Flo Jo’s world records set at the 1987 Olympic trials for the 100-metre (10.49) and the 1988 Seoul Olympics in the 200-metre (21.34) are still standing and will likely remain untouched.
Although she died from a seizure at the young age of 38, there’s no doubt in my mind that many female athletes today pay homage to her trendsetting ways. When Venus and Serena Williams take center court in their head-turning tennis outfits, all praise should go to Flo Jo for not being afraid to take that risk first. Or when many female athletes arrived at the 2012 Olympic Games with decorative nails and beat faces, I couldn’t help but think they were all channeling their inner Flo Jo. She wasn’t only a pioneer in sport for her competitive nature, but her beauty, elegance, and refusal to compromise her femininity, too.
Click images below to check out some of her most memorable outfits.
And here’s footage from the 1988 Seoul 100-metre Gold medal race (10.54)…
And the 1988 Seoul WR 200-metre Gold medal race (21.34)…
Although her accomplishments were scrutinized, I can’t imagine how much more she would have suffered if social media was around back then. Before, it was a lot easier to conceal ugly truths from the youth. With my childhood innocence still intact, I was unaware of the controversy swirling around her at the time. And I remain happy about that. Even while preparing this post and researching her life, I dismissed the hearsay about her alleged doping. I don’t want my fond memories of how she inspired me as a young black girl to be tainted. Instead, I’m proud that all of these years later, the adult me is still able to connect with Griffith-Joyner’s radiant beauty, grace, and trailblazing style. To some, her legacy may be marred by steroid suspicions, but to me she will forever reign as the fastest, dopest, baddest chick the track and field world will ever know.