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Why is FloJo's 100m record so unbeatable?

Jamaica's Elaine Thompson-Herah broke her longstanding Olympic record on Saturday, but her overall world record remains comfortably intact.

ATLANTA — Elaine Thompson-Herah did the just-about-unthinkable on Saturday, as she won gold in the women's 100m final in Tokyo - broke a FloJo record.

Florence Griffith Joyner's Olympic record of 10.62 seconds in the 100m had stood strong since 1988, but Thompson-Herah eked past it with a time of 10.61 seconds.

Here's the really remarkable thing, though: Thompson-Herah's new Olympic record time still doesn't sniff the world record FloJo set in 1988.

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Ahead of the 1988 Olympics, which were held in Seoul, South Korea, FloJo ran at the U.S. Olympic trials in Indianapolis.

In the quarterfinals of that event, FloJo ran the 100m in a jaw-dropping 10.49 seconds - a time that no one has ever come close to, before or since.

So how did she do it, and why is it so untouchable?

Well, first, the obvious - she did it by being really, really fast. Her time in the gold medal race at the '88 U.S. trials wound up being 10.61, equal to the new Olympic record Thompson-Herah set on Saturday, and in the Olympic quarterfinal she ran a 10.62 - better than anyone else recorded in Seoul by a longshot.

In the 1988 100m final, her time of 10.70s was 0.21s ahead of German silver medalist (then competing for East Germany) Heike Dreschsler. FloJo had no peer at the time, basically.

But there is some context to her astounding 10.49s world record - the primary contention for those who question her outlier record has to do with the wind.

See, in sprinting, a strong wind blowing from behind you can make a big difference - so big, in fact, that a tailwind, as its known, of a certain strength during a race will automatically disqualify the runner's time for consideration in world records.

Famously, at the 2008 U.S. trials Tyson Gay ran what was at that time a world record-beating 9.68s in the 100m. But it was not counted as a world record, because the wind speed behind him was 4.1 meters per second - well above the 2.0 meters/second threshold to have a sprint time qualify for record-keeping purposes.

In Indianapolis in 1988, the wind reading came in at 0.0 meters/second - very legal, and also very curious on a day when observers noted it was quite breezy. Skeptics have contended the wind meter wasn't working properly or otherwise read properly that day - there have even been academic studies into the wind that day.

But it was recorded as a legal time all the same, and the record remains in the books unchallenged.

FloJo's record has also been subject to those scrutinizing the era for its doping scandals - at the 1988 Olympics, Canadian Ben Johnson set a new record and then later tested positive for steroids.

FloJo never recorded a positive test of any kind, retiring after the Olympics in '88 before mandatory random drug testing was instituted the next year. After her tragic early death in 1998 at the age of 38, her coach and trainer Bob Kersee fiercely defended her legacy.

"It has never been proven by anyone that Florence had ever used anything illegal to improve her performance,” he said at the time. “What has happened - and, in a sense, I blame myself for allowing it to happen - is that people who are jealous have spread rumors."

Actress Holly Robinson Peete, a friend of FloJo's, also tweeted earlier this month to condemn a user who had speculated the sprinter died in 1998 over drug use. She noted FloJo's autopsy showed her system was clear of any drugs at the time of her death.

"Her funeral was one of the saddest most crushing days I’ve ever experienced.  Sooo -what you are NOT going to do is make up (poop emoji) about her disrespecting her family and her legacy. No ma’am," Robinson Peete wrote.

Whether the wind aided her in Indianapolis will remain unprovable, and any suggestion of doping amounts to rank speculation - so the only thing that remains certain is that it will take a very, very special run if FloJo's 10.49 record is ever to fall.

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