She holds the record as the fastest woman in the world. She was also one of the most stylish on the track. Her long decorated nails, one legged track suits, and natural beauty made her stand out as not just the fastest woman in the world, but also a woman unafraid of self expression when the world was watching. She is the incomparable Florence Griffith Joyner.
Most runners don’t wear jewelry during competitions because they fear it could interfere with their performance. Flo Jo proved the opposite. Her style added to her breathtaking races.
The California native showed up to the World Championships in 1987 in Rome wearing a hooded speed skating body suit. Fierce. It was a slight departure from her “one-legger” track suits that she made famous.
“I like being unconventional.” – Flo Jo
“I had always come in second, and when you’ve been second best for so long you can either accept it or try to become the best. I made the decision to try and be the best in 1988.”
Flo Jo’s world records are a bitter sweet triumph for black women. Many say women runners don’t get the same recognition as men, partly because the records she set are simply unbeatable. After the 2008 Olympics, Jamaican runner Veronica Campbell-Brown said during her team’s press conference in Beijing:
“It is beyond my reach. The 200m world record is 21.34[sec] and the 100m record is 10.49[sec]. How many females have even run 10.6[sec] in the past 20 years since Flo Jo set that record?”
Marion Jones did, but after admitting to taking performance enhancing drugs her record was erased.
Flo Jo died in her sleep in 1998 from an epileptic seizure that suffocated her. Her legacy of grace, style, and determination will live on for years to come.