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Olympic Flashback: Flo-Jo in 1988

Who doesn’t love the Olympics? Well we certainly do. In honor of our love for the Olympics and the great GladiatHers who participate in them, from now until the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, will be celebrating great past Olympic performances with Flashback Friday. Our first Flashback GladiatHer performance highlights the great and controversial 1988 Olympic Trials and Finals performances of the fastest woman to ever walk the face of the earth, Florence Griffith-Joyner, AKA Flo-Jo.

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In 1988, Flo-Jo owned the track and it started with the U.S. Olympic Trials in Indianapolis. She stepped on the track in the 100m quarterfinals and blew the competition and the world away by winning the event in 10.49s. The performance was shocking and not just because she ran with her signature long fingernails and colorful uniform, but because she annihilated the rest of the field and history. The second place finisher in her heat, Diane Williams, finished with a time of 10.88s and the previous world record was 10.76s. In light of the blustery winds that day, there was significant question about whether the performance was wind-assisted. However, because the wind registered at 0.0 mph at the time of the race, Griffith-Joyner was credited with a world record. Griffith-Joyner went on to win gold in Seoul in wind-assisted time of 10.54s.

Flo-Jo brought her world record setting speed to Seoul in the 200m as well.  In the semi-finals of the 200m, Griffith-Joyner set a new world record when she ran a time of 21.56s.  While it was astonishing that she beat the previous record, 21.71s, by .15s; Flo-Jo wasn’t finished.  In the finals of the event, Griffith-Joyner bettered her semi-finals performance by running an unprecedented time of 21.34s.  The second place finisher in the race, Grace Jackson, finished with a time 21.72s.

Griffith-Joyner also helped team USA capture a gold medal in the 4x100m race and a silver medal in the 4x400m race which brought her total medal count to 4 for the Games.  While the world watched in awe and praised her for her performances in 1988, her medals did not come without controversy.  Following the Olympics, other athletes openly accused Griffith-Joyner of using steroids.  Although no direct evidence was ever produced to support the claims, many pointed to a change in her physique (she had gained noticeable muscle mass and definition) and dramatic dip in times (prior to the Games and Trials her best times were 10.96s and 21.96s).  Although rigorously tested, Griffith-Joyner passed all tests administered to her.  She always denied the allegations and credited a new coach and training regime with the changes to her body and times.

Mere months after her earth-shattering Olympic performances, Griffith-Joyner announced her retirement.  Although, she attempted to make a comeback in 1996 in an effort to set a world record in the 400m, injury placed that dream out of reach.  In September 1998, Griffith-Joyner died in her sleep at the age of 38 from suffocation due to a severe epileptic seizure.  Although her life ended abruptly and in the stillness of the night, Flo-Jo wowed the world while she was alive.  She brought a unique flair and speed that the world will never forget.

Share with us your favorite Olympic moments in the comments section below.


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