Whether you do track and field, play a sport like soccer competitively, or just lift weights and dumbbells for a good sweat-session, inspiration can help you keep on course to reaching your goals. Looking at amazing athletes like American track and field superstar “Flo-Jo” Florence Griffith Joyner (Dec. 21, 1959 – Sept. 21, 1998) can reignite your own athletic activities.
Flo-Jo’s dedication, focus, positive attitude, and determination to do her personal best was (and is) awesome. Here are 7 ways her legacy continues to inspire athletes:
1. Flo-Jo never let circumstances hinder her dreams
Florence Delorez Griffith was born in Los Angeles, California and grew up in Watts, at the Jordan Downs housing projects. She had 10 brothers and sisters, all of them raised by their mom. Yup, that’s a motivational mom moment if ever I heard one!
At a young age, Dee-Dee as she was known then, was already wanting to reach for high accomplishments. She was discouraged by other kids, who laughed when she said she wanted to be “everything” as they saw it as unrealistic. Despite this, she would go on to win 3 medals at the 1988 Olympic Games in sprint events.
2. Haters didn’t get the best of her
During her success as a track and field athlete, Flo-Jo was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. Both media and fellow athletes speculated that she only won the gold at the Olympics because she was using performance-enhancing drugs.
Accusers even blamed her coach for encouraging his athletes of doping. All of which was later disproven when Joyner took and passed 11 drug tests. That’s right, 11.
There were still doubters, but Joyner never let it get to her. If she had, she likely would not have had such a successful career. All the more reason to stand strong in who you are and believe in your athletic abilities and all accomplishments.
3. Florence Griffith Joyner embraced her uniqueness
Even when she was young, Flo-Jo embraced her individuality and was never ashamed of it. For example, she wore unusual clothes to school, such as different colored socks, a pair of shorts or other attire with leggings, twirly hairstyles, and polished her nails with crushed crayons.
“I learned that when you try to do right and you try to please everybody, they will still laugh at you and they will still talk about you” – Florence Griffith Joyner
Even as a track and field athlete, she wore outfits that she once drew when she was young. She also grew her nails and designed them, which wasn’t typical for athletes.
4. Flo-Jo persevered when coaches discouraged her track and field goals
Joyner was gifted with speed but her struggle was with the starting block. Even though she was good at the middle and end of the race, coaches were skeptical about her because of her problems at the race’s start.
But she worked through that hurdle under coach Bob Kersee at California State University. While she had the natural skill for running, it was the technical ability like the starting block that she had to work on.
And while she missed becoming part of the Olympic team in 1980, she continued to practice and go for her sports dreams.
5. Practice, practice, practice
Persistance defined this superstar runner. She persisted even though she didn’t make it to that first rung of sprinters in 1980. She would compete in positions on relay teams, try and improve her start, and train her body until she got it right.
“I was trying to restructure the way my body was made instead of trying to master the way I ran. I would get so frustrated with my starts in practices that I would just cry. When I ran, I wouldn’t even try to get out of the blocks, I would just run.” – Florence Griffith Joyner
Coaches would soon see the latent talents of Flo-Jo. Joyner embraced her own way of running at the start and coaches would let her be.
6. Olympic world records
The hard work continued and, in 1988, Flo-Jo was given a chance to represent the United States in the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. It was there she accomplished her world record in the 100 meters. Here are her amazing times:
- 100-meter sprint: 10.49 seconds
- 200-meter sprint semifinal: 21.56 seconds
- 200-meter sprint finals: 21.34 seconds
She brought home 3 gold medals (100 meters, 200 meters, and 4×100 meter relay) and 1 silver (4×400 meter relay) from that event. She also received the Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur performer in recognition of her world records.
7. Florence Griffith Joyner gave back to the community
Her giving nature was clear. Flo-Jo established a foundation for underprivileged children in 1992. Also, she served as co-chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness from 1993 to 1995.
While her success would have been enough for some people, this female sports great gave back to the community. And nothing was handed to her, so she was a model of the value of hard work.
“Nothing beats hard work… I got the medals to prove it” – Florence Griffith Joyner
When Flo-Jo inspires
While Florence Griffith Joyner passed away much too soon, her mark in the track and field has inspired many athletes to greatness. The haters and doubters never got to her and she acheived world records that still stand today.
Thank you Flo-Jo for your perseverence and never being afraid to be unique in your sport or in daily life.
[Top photo credit: InSapphoWeTrust, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr]