1984 Olympics, Zola Budd and Mary Decker and that Fall

By Ahmet Abdulaziz ….

The year was 1984. The Olympics in Los Angeles were being held In those days and in Pakistan the TV used to give highlights of the developments late at night.

At that time my first interest was in field hockey, but athletics was the next.

At the time the sports media had predicted a big clash in the 3000 metres women’s race, between Mary Decker and Zola Budd.  Mary Decker of USA, by that time had quite a lot of records and track achievements to her credit, and was the most favoured in the finals of the 3000 meters race.

Zola Budd, a teenager at that time, was not well known at that time, but was expected to give Decker a tough time in the finals, due to her track performances in past. She was originally from South Africa, where she had earned a name as an athlete for herself. Since South Africa at that time was not allowed in the international sports events, Budd was hurriedly brought to the United Kingdom, where she was granted British citizenship, to qualify for the Olympics games.

Zola Budd was about 18 and Mary Decker 26, when they entered the final race of 3000 meters in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

More information:

L to R. Zola Budd, Mary Decker, Maricica Puică 1984 picture courtesy of Wikipedia

The sports lovers were expecting a very tough competition between the two, as both had performed very well in the heats. Most of the experts had predicted Decker to win the gold, and silver for Budd.

But ultimately what happened on that particular evening, had never been thought of by any expert. That particular final race of 3000 meters ultimately went down in sports history as one of the most controversial races.

The final race for gold medal had started in a normal fashion. Young Budd was running without shoes, which had also added to her popularity. Both the runners started off very close to each other, with Budd ahead of Decker. Then all of sudden Decker collided with Budd, and fell down, off the track. She was injured and could not continue the race. Budd, on the other hand, was startled, lost concentration and finished up seventh. The race was ultimately won by Maricia Puica of Romania.

In a post race press conference, Decker blamed Budd for her fall. She was dejected, and her hopes of winning the Olympic Gold were no more. She was furious. Budd on the other hand did not accept any fault on her part.

The sports media took this burning story for days to come. But the unfortunate incident had happened. Both the famous runners had lost their chances of winning the Olympic Gold medal, and had become part of one of the most controversial sports events of all times.

Both the athletes further continued their career, and then retired. But still now and then the sports media restart evaluating that particular sad incident. Many books were written, and innumerable articles were written by analysts. Both of them have appeared in a number of television shows during the last 35 years. For them the time has passed, but still they cannot forget that particular race, which made both of them memorable in sports history. Click here to see a video of that fall.