Style. Elegance. Grace. Flash. Fierce. FAST. On this day, Florence Griffith Joyner–known as the fastest woman on Earth–was born in Los Angeles, California. Repping the Watts section of Los Angeles, “Flo Jo'” had already begun putting her stamp on the sport in high school, where she convinced the track and field team to wear fitted uniforms, a style she later made famous.
Flo Jo served as the anchor on her high school track team and would land a track scholarship to Cal State. Recognizing her immense talent and potential, she transferred to UCLA and wound up becoming an NCAA champion in the 200-meter and 400-meter events.
Joyner immediately began to blossom in her Olympic track career, qualifying for the 200-meter race in the 1984 Olympic trials in her hometown of Los Angeles. During the actual Olympic games, she would earn her then-career-best silver medal.
Once Flo Jo took a break from running track to focus more on her husband and family life, she returned in 1988 with a vengeance, as her sights were fixed on her first gold medal. During the first trial run, she blew past her competition with relative ease to look up at a women’s world record of 10.49 in the 100-meter dash. Oh, and she wasn’t done.
The superstar and cultural and fashion icon would post two more times that were faster than the previous 100-meter world record. In the quarterfinal, semifinals and Olympic final, she posted times of 10.49, 10.70s, and 10.61, respectively. And just to put the cherry on top, she decided to set the world 200-meter record, too, with a time of 21.77.
After her absolutely dominating 1988 Olympics, she abruptly retired from track, leaving her legacy as the “fastest woman on earth.”
Just 10 years after setting the Olympic world on fire, Joyner died from an epileptic seizure in her home in Mission Viejo, California. She was just 38 years old.
Flo Jo has gone down the greatest women’s Olympian sprinter ever and will remain as such until someone dethrones her and claims the fastest woman in the world title. She was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1995. One day, Flo Jo’s record will fall, but the question remains: will it be in this lifetime?