“The fastest living woman!” The commentator raged as Sherika Jackson of Jamaica raced down the track, working her arms and legs, to an incredible time of 21:45 to take gold at the World Championships in Athletics. She will continue to be the second fastest woman in history. The fastest was the great Florence Griffith-Joyner, also known as Flo Jo, who lived the fast-paced dreamy life of a runner, a free-spirited spirit, an exuberant fashionista whom the famous singer Beyoncé worshiped when she once wore a float-jo suit. , and who tragically died young, in her sleep after an epileptic seizure, a death she had for some time anticipated. It is said that it is better to die young than to disappear, and Flo Jo, unfortunately, has become his most famous symbolic figure. But the boy could she run. Her life is a whole story.
— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) July 22, 2022
Controversy haunted her. No one could catch her on the track; tried a lot. Her fans would say she ran with the speed of the wind; critics said she was driven by the wind. Her power was celebrated all over the world; some whispered that it was caused by drugs. Her style made the world go crazy; haters made fun of six-inch bright nails. Beyoncé was in a bodysuit; they said that Flo-Jo’s career was a matter of style, not content. She retired in ’87 to have a baby; they said she ran away for fear of doping tests. She never failed a single drug test. Only in Seoul she was checked 11 times, nothing illegal was found. She foresaw death, knew that only death could catch her; so it was.
But her last act was her greatest posthumous run. With her death and his second marriage, the promise she squeezed out of him during her premonitions, her daughter Mary began to drift in life. At the age of 7, when her father was a broken man, it was Maria who called her family and friends to announce the death of her mother. The emptiness of her mother will overtake her, and she will plunge into her teenage years, distant and seized by the blues.
It was then that her father showed her Flo-Jo’s letters marked “don’t open until you’re 16,” and Mary’s joy of life returned. She became a singer, songwriter, performer and sang at the 2012 Olympics in track and field. However, it is her mother who was a track and field rock star.
Incredibly, in 1985, after she won gold at the ’84 Olympics, Flo Jo was working in a bank. Training and the life of a runner faded into the background, and her main job was styling – nail manicure, sewing clothes. She started out as a bank teller before cashing out her fortune on the racetracks, but she relapsed into the gray banking world. She did her friends’ nails and hair at night, charging $45 to $200 for an elaborate braid.
Overweight (her trainer would say she was 60 pounds heavier), but unencumbered by the world, she lived her life when her trainers, husband Al Joyner and his son-in-law Bob Kersey pushed her into action. Her husband Al, whom she met in 1980 and married in 1987, was an Olympic triple jump champion and brother of Olympic heptathlon and long jump legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
The marriage prompted her to return to the tracks. She trained at 4 am. Inspired by Canadian Ben Johnson’s strong start at the 1987 World Championships, Al forced her to increase her strength training. At 130 pounds, she was reportedly able to squat 320 pounds. “To run like a man, you have to train like a man,” she said.
But before the epic race in Seoul 88 came fashionista. “Dress well to look good. Look good to feel good. And feel good to run fast!” she would say. 6-inch acrylic nails materialized, hair flowing, face blazing with make-up, and her own running gear was on the rampage — from a one-leg bodysuit, a speed skating hooded bodysuit, colorblocked bikini bottoms, detailed lace jumpsuits, and asymmetrical jumpsuits. outfits. Flamboyance had a middle name: Flo Jo.
Fashion sense was innate. She knew how to knit, sew and crochet. From the age of 7 she flirted with her own designer clothes. Around the late 70s, early 80s, before she became famous, she ran in New York and caught the attention of famous running coach Pat Connolly, who once wrote about this moment in NYT: “She was so beautiful that my eyes often followed her. her as she ran past. I had to resist the urge to engage her in a conversation, to ask if she was a singer. There were no outrageous hairstyles and nails yet; no one-legged tights; no layers of makeup; there are no bulging muscles to provide strong mechanical strides. What I saw was a tension in her dark eyes, like hunger; a look that showed that this young woman had a heart.”
And her heart was free and whimsical.
“You can wear whatever you want, as long as you’re ready to leave when the gun goes off. You will run fast no matter what. Makeup won’t stop you. An outfit won’t stop you,” is one of her famous quotes. In 1988, she began wearing what she called “one-legged,” which happened after she accidentally cut one leg shorter than the other. “I started laughing and she said, ‘I’m wearing this.’ That’s how it all started,” Joyner said. She pasted little motivational notes all over the house. The time she wanted to win the race, quotes from the 23rd psalm of the Bible, and her favorite was: “I can because I believe I can.”
Training raged ahead of Seoul. As is her love of clothes. She packed over 100 outfits, her husband said laughing. She painted her six-inch pile nails red, blue, gold, white. She was ready to enter dreams of athletic kids with aspirations, girls craving empowerment to be like tennis star Serena Williams, wide-eyed kids and adoring, fun-loving adults.
“I spend about 15 minutes doing makeup,” she once told The Boston Globe. “I spend a lot more time preparing for a race.”
On July 16, 1988, at the Indianapolis Trials in front of Seoul, the jaws of superstar athletes and coaches dropped in fear. In the 100 m, she surpassed Evelyn Ashward’s record of 10.76. Her husband kept convincing her that she could do it as 10.5 was his time and she was beating him in training. When the clock stopped after the run, the world froze in awe: 10:49, they were shining.
“No one can run that fast. The heat must be doing something to the electronics,” ABC announcer Marty Liquori said. Omega Timing examined the anemometer and timing system and found no faults. However, many, including her husband, believe it was caused by the wind. He was later rated with an asterisk by the Association of Track and Field Statisticians: “probably with strong winds, but a recognized world record.” The next day, in the final, she nevertheless set a record, rushing in 10.61 seconds.
“If you go back and watch a movie of her running mechanics in ’84 and then look back at ’88, you’ll see the difference. This is the secret. Hard work, proper sleep, proper nutrition. And then she had a special gift from God,” Al Joyner told BBC Sport. “I said, ‘Honey, go over there and make them think you’re on jet fuel.’
In Seoul, she ran the 100m in 10.54 (powered by the wind), with her arms up in the last five meters and a beaming smile on her face. One of the greatest sports photographs of our time.
In the 200 m semi-final, she broke the nine-year-old world record before breaking it again in less than two hours in the final, running in 21.34 seconds. 34 years have passed, no one has caught up with her yet.
Death did. In 1998, at the age of 38, Flo Jo died in her sleep from a rare disease and brain damage that caused seizures (cavernous angioma), which was discovered only after the birth of her daughter.
Al’s husband dialed 911, crying, “My wife is missing. My wife is gone. They asked him to do CPR, but he couldn’t find a pulse. He later recalled talking to her: “This is not how the story should end. I must go ahead of you. You will see Mary grow up…” At that moment, Mary ran into the room: “What’s wrong with mom?” At that moment, the doctors arrived and soon pronounced her dead. Simply put, she suffocated in her sleep.
The paramedics handed him their wedding ring and a broken fingernail. Critics still grumbled about the effects of drugs. An extended autopsy and toxicological tests conducted over two days rejected them: they did not reveal any use of steroids or performance-enhancing drugs in her system. “She passed the last drug test. I told them to check everything,” Al told Espn. “There was nothing there, and there never was. Nothing but great spirit.
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