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Serena Williams pays tribute to FloJo with a single-legged catsuit

Serena Williams wears a catsuit inspired by Florence Griffith Joyner during her first-round Australian Open match. (Rick Rycroft/Australian Open)
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Serena Williams brought out a catsuit for her first-round match Monday at the Australian Open, putting a little spin on what has become a frequent practice for her by making it an homage to a former great.

This catsuit was a single-legged burst of pink, red and black that was a tribute to 1988 Olympic champion Florence Griffith Joyner, who, like Williams, found power in combining fashion and athletics.

“I was inspired by FloJo, who was a wonderful track athlete, amazing athlete when I was growing up,” the tournament’s 10th seed told reporters after beating 49th-ranked German Laura Siegemund, 6-1, 6-1, in 56 minutes. “Well, watching her fashion, just always changing, her outfits were always amazing. This year we thought of what can we do to keep elevating the Serena Williams [look] on the court. The Nike team actually thought of this design of inspiration from FloJo. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is so brilliant.’ She had such amazing style and iconic-ness.”

A hair and nail technician as well as an athlete, FloJo often wore eye-catching outfits, sporting different hairstyles, jewelry and long fingernails even as she was tearing up tracks with her blazing speed. She set Olympic records that still stand in the 100 and 200 meters in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and drew attention for sporting what she called a “one-legger” she had created spur-of-the-moment.

“It was a two-legger originally,” she told NBC in 1988. “I was in the mirror, and I cut off one leg, and I liked how it looked. So I took a pair of my briefs, and I put it over the top of the one leg. And I said, well that looks good, I’ll try that.”

FloJo was only 38 when she died in 1998 after an epileptic seizure, but she left a lasting impression on Williams, who has worn a number of looks over the years. She has worn a black catsuit that was banned by French Open officials and a single-sleeved tutu at the U.S. Open. Although officials didn’t approve of the catsuit, Williams chose to use it to send a message to new mothers after she gave birth to her daughter.

She sent a message with the tutu, too. “When I first tried on the dress, I felt very strong and feminine at the same time. It has all the really strong elements, from the leather to that really cool stretchy material,” Williams said of the tutu in 2018. “I felt so feminine in the tutu, which is probably my favorite part of it. It really embodies what I always say: that you can be strong and beautiful at the same time.”

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