Flo-Jo was MY True Friend:
It was 1984 at the Olympic Training Camp in Santa Barbara, California and a red Datsun 300ZX with the license plate 84GOLD pulled up to the practice track. A shy young woman stepped from the car and began to warm up with the USA’s sprint relay team. Brooks Johnson, the head coach for the female track and field team, started to lecture everyone as he put together the order for the relay – Alice Brown to Florence Griffith-Joyner (Florence Griffith until 1988 when she wed Al Joyner), to Diane Williams to Evelyn Ashford.
It was only a practice meet. The gun went off and Alice blistered down the track passing the baton to Florence who handed it to Diane and finally to Evelyn.
Of course they won. Afterward, Florence retraced her steps to retrieve something. “Flossie Mae”, Brooks yelled using the nickname he had given Florence. “What are you doing?” Apparently, Florence’s 6-inch nails had broken off from the impact of the baton on her right hand. She then delicately glued all four nails back on.
It was 1988 at the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis. Florence, Sandra Farmer-Patrick, her husband David and I were in Florence’s hotel room. Florence was showing us all of the outfits she planned to wear at the Trials, including the one-legged creations she had designed.
As excited as we were to be at the Trials, Florence was amazingly quiet. She was at the same time introverted yet stylish, focused yet intriguing, shy yet mystifying. Florence and I schmoozed about everything but track. I finally confided in her how nervous I was. I remember her telling me to close my eyes and visualize my race, the 400 Meters. She told me to go through each 100 Meters as if I was running alone and to visualize myself in first place. I did and finally felt relaxed and confident. That’s the Florence I remember. A woman of substance, style, class, finesse – a woman of color. We were now prepared to make the team.
Florence competed before me. The night she broke the world record in the 100 Meters – 10.49 with a 0.00 wind reading– I was there. Her determination inspired me to do the very same. I thus went out and won the 400 Meters – a feat that was unexpected since I wasn’t the favorite.
After the Trials, Florence became known as Flo-Jo. The drug rumors soon began and Flo-Jo did not even bat an eyelash. To silence her critics, she ran faster and faster, passing runners and every drug test imaginable. She had few friends and surrounded herself only with people she truly cared about; people who were not envious and would not judge her.
(Ironically, those close to her called her Dee-Dee because her middle name was Delorez and my friends called me DD, same name different spelling. I just called her Flo)
Flo-Jo was my friend always. We never spoke about the rumors because friends don’t question or undermine all the hard work an athlete does to become a champion.
Here’s a poem I wrote about my friend:
A friend is someone special and very hard to find,
And when you confide in someone, it’s Flo-Jo you have in mind.
Friends aren’t always faithful, and true friends are very rare.
But the ones that you can count on are the ones who are always there.
Florence was a friend and I, like so many others, am still confused by her sudden passing. In 1995, while I was pregnant with my son, I saw Flo-Jo at an event. I told her I wanted to compete again and she offered to coach me. As busy as she was, she offered to be my inspiration in getting back on the track. We spoke about her returning to compete in my race, the 400 Meters, and about her desire to compete in the marathon. I jokingly said to her, “So you are going from being the fastest woman in the world to the slowest woman?” she laughed. Her smile, her charisma, her positive anecdotes will forever be a part of me.
Super Foods can help you live a longer and healthier life
Blueberries: They are brain foods. They contain pterostilbene, a plant compound to have cholesterol-lowering properties. Their ORAC (antioxidant rating) is the highest of any fruit. And they are rich in fiber. Tip: Try them frozen. They taste like sherbet!
Guava: These are part strawberries and part pears. One low-caloric cup of this vitamin rich fruit contains eight grams of fiber. And in one widely used test of antioxidant power, Guava scored only second to blueberries, right behind Kale. It also contains cancer-fighting lycopene.
Sardines: Cheap source of protein. They are rich in omega-3 fats, and one of the least contaminated of any seafood. Eat them out of the can or on a salad.
Apples: The juicy red or green apple’s reputation for keeping you out of the doctor’s office. Loaded with pectin (an important fiber), apples are one of the best sources of boron, a little known nutrient that helps support strong and healthy bones. An apple with a glass of water is a great natural appetite suppressant. Highest antioxidant value: Red Apples.
Flaxseed: It is one of the only plant sources of moega-3 fats, but the flaxseeds themselves provide the added benefit of fiber along with omega-3. They can be thrown on salads, tossed into smoothies, or sprinkled on vegetables. They also contain lignans, a group of plant nutrients that have been studied by the National Cancer Institute for their cancer preventive properties.
For more information or questions, please contact OlympianDianeD@yahoo.com
Check out my blog website at http://blog.dianedixonfoundation.org
Follow me on