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For the quarterfinals, the lady wore purple. As she settled into the blocks before the second round of the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Indianapolis on Saturday, Florence Griffith Joyner's electric-plum bodysuit caressed her from neck to ankle. Over it she wore a turquoise bikini brief. Yet her left leg was bare; somehow it appeared more naked than any other bare limb in the race. As she crouched in the blocks, her long orange-black-and-white fingernails pressed into the scorched, 115� surface of the Mondo track, and she came to a decision.
She had kept an eye on the infield, for two reasons. One, her husband of less than a year, 1984 Olympic triple jump champion Al Joyner, had just leaped 57'8�" and stood an imperiled third with three rounds to go.
Two, Griffith Joyner needed to keep an eye on the jumpers' wind readings, because she had discovered in her first-round heat that she, the Indiana University track, the temperature and the occasion had all come together to create historic possibilities. Clad then in sparkling apple green and revealing stunning acceleration, she had flown over the 100 in 10.60, the fastest ever run by a woman. But a torrid, fitful wind had been gusting from the west. Had it blown her along with more force than the allowable 2.0 meters per second?
For a while no one knew. The wind gauge's display panel had broken down. But the instrument's reading was preserved in the computer. At last it was pried out: 3.2 meters per second. Evelyn Ashford's world record of 10.76, set in 1984, was safe.
Safe, at least, until this second round of the 100, run 2� hours later. World records are seldom set in quarterfinals. "But you strike when the iron is hot," said Bob Kersee, Griffith Joyner's coach, who also is married—surely you knew—to Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Al's sister.
"If you don't feel a gust, go for it now," Kersee had told Griffith Joyner before the heat. "We'll worry about making the team tomorrow."
So Griffith Joyner, sensing little breeze, struck. And thereby launched a trials rich in resurgent champions. Great names like Carl Lewis, Joyner-Kersee, Willie Banks, Mary Decker Slaney and Edwin Moses would show again that the hungry tiger hunts best. And nothing gnaws and growls like Olympic pangs. Griffith Joyner, fueled on "vitamins, amino acids and water," was ravenous, bolting to a huge lead by 50 meters.
"I had a good start, a relaxed middle and kept my knees up at the end," she said. "It was more or less a perfect race."
She won by four meters over Diane Williams, crossing the line an asymmetrical purple streak. "I didn't design the suit with any special theory in mind," she would say. "I just liked it. I call it the one-legger."
The clock stopped at 10.49, a time so absurdly fast that it refused to be absorbed. Yeah, sure, everyone thought, the wind again....