Year in Review: Michelle Jenneke pre-race Dance? Wyomia Tyus Did it First!

In 2012, the Internet was buzzing about Michelle Jenneke’s Pre-race antics (YouTube video here), but I have one thing to say:

Wyomia Tyus did it First!  (with a G-rated version)

Usain Bolt is famous for being super relaxed and dancing and playing to the crowd BEFORE he races.

But before Usain Bolt came along, it was actually a WOMAN who started this ritual of the pre-race dance routine.

Long before Carl Lewis became the first man to win back to back 100 meter Olympic titles (and you can comment that as his silver from 1988 was bumped up to Gold following the Ben Johnson disqualification), that feat was accomplished by a women.

It has since been duplicated by 2 women, Gail Devers (1992 and 1996) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (2008 and 2012).

Wyomia Tyus

Photo Credits:

Wyomia Tyus came from the famed Tennessee State University “Tigerbells” Track and Field program and won the 100 meter Gold medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as a 19 year old and repeated that victory in the 1968 Mexico Olympics.  She also added the 4×100 meter relay Gold to her collection.

What people don’t remember is she did a pre-race dance in 1968.  The hit song at the time was "Tighten Up" by a Houston, Texas based R&B vocal group called Archie Bell & the Drells.  It reached #1 on both the Billboard R&B and pop charts in the spring of 1968.

She did her funky dance before getting into the starting blocks in Mexico City.  It also helped that the first four rows near the starting line were Americans and had bongo drums and started playing this song.    And you thought Gabe Jennings invented this?

There was immense pressure for Wyomia Tyus because she was the defending champion and no one, male or female, had ever won consecutive Golds in the 100 meters.

Australia’s Raylene Boyle, who would go on to stellar career after her 4th place finish in Mexico (triple gold in 1970 and 1974 Commonwealth Games, along with a 400m Gold in the 400m in 1982), admitted a year later when she met with Wyomia Tyus that her pre-race funky moves psyched her out.

In that race, USA’s Barbara Ferrell was 2nd and Irena Szewinska finished 3rd.  With two heavily bandaged legs, Chi Cheng of Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) finished 7th in that race.

In 1980, Wyomia Tyus was inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame and in 1985, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Excellent recall and perfect example of the power of relaxation Jimson. Here’s Canal+ ‘s segment of the Women’s 100m Final on youtube from Alberto Isaac’s classic documentary about the 1968 Summer Games.

    We get a close-up slo-mo glimpse of Wyomia in her pre-race dance routine from 00:18 – 00:26. I wish the shot was pulled back a bit so we could get a complete look at her movements but the obvious joy and embracement of the moment she portrays is marvelous and is in direct contrast to her fellow competitors’ displays of anxiety. The 2 minute 7 second piece is very well done with the soundtrack and voice-over a definitive complement.

    • @Fred, thanks for the video. Any advantage you can gain at this level is huge. Mo Greene was the best for intimidation.