The day Flo Jo took the 1988 Olympic 100-meter sprint by storm
This was the first of three gold medals Griffith Joyner would win
As she neared the finish line at the 1988 Olympics, Florence Griffith Joyner broke out a huge smile in the final 5 meters of her sprint. While the rest of the field chased behind her, Griffith Joyner raised both arms into the air just before she crossed the finish line in the 100-meter sprint in 10.54 seconds.
“I looked and didn’t see anybody, so I just relaxed,” Joyner, nicknamed Flo Jo, told the Los Angeles Times after the Sept. 25, 1988, race at the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
Griffith Joyner already owned the world record thanks to a 10.49 during the Olympic trials in July 1988, but had there not been wind assistance, she also would have taken home the Olympic record.
The gold medal would just have to do, as Griffith Joyner defeated Evelyn Ashford, the 1984 champion, and bronze medalist Heike Drechsler of East Germany.
Draped in the American flag, Griffith Joyner jogged around the track as she continued to celebrate her landslide victory.
Even during the preliminaries, it was clear that Ashford’s 4-year-old Olympic record of 10.97 was about to fall. Griffith Joyner first ran a 10.88, which Ashford then matched, before she lowered it to 10.62.
As she made her way down the track during the final, 6.71 mph winds were at Griffith Joyner’s back. Sixty of the 101 men who ran the first round of the men’s 100-meter event had slower times than she did.
Besides making headlines for her performance in the races, there was a ton of media attention on Griffith Joyner’s apparel. During the games, she wore jewelry and long hair, which track athletes traditionally avoided because it slowed them down. Her fingernails, which were painted red, white and blue, were 6 inches long, and she had also sported a sheer, one-legged running suit during the U.S. trials in Indianapolis.
“I spend about 15 minutes putting on my makeup,” she told The Boston Globe. “I spend a lot longer getting ready for a race.”
Unlike the 100-meter dash, when Griffith Joyner took the track for the 200-meter sprint, there would be no doubt or questions about the legitimacy of her Olympic and world record times. For a second consecutive event, she breezed past the rest of the competition and the old time (21.56) in a record 21.33 seconds. Once again, Griffith Joyner broke into a big smile and jubilantly lifted her arms above her head in the final few meters.
The American also took home gold in the 4×100-meter relay and a silver medal in the 4×400-meter event, in which she also won a silver during the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
”The race went better than I thought,” Griffith Joyner told The New York Times. ”I had a much better start than I expected. I’m very happy.”