32 years later and I recently watched a Sky Atlantic documentary called “The Fall” based on the 1984 Olympic Games 3000m final with Athletes Zola Budd (GBR) and Mary Decker (USA) I’d like to draw you back to the start of this paragraph and remind you that this race took place 32 years ago!! and to this day athletic fans are still talking about this race collision that producers thought they needed to film a documentary lasting 1hr 50minutes. This documentary was going to go into more detail and explain events on both sides of both these athletes.
I was obviously much, much younger then and clearly remember this incident as I watched it on a non high definition TV, probably 28” in size with a poor quality indoor Ariel, which caused a rolling picture. Through the newspapers and TV clips I was lead to watch the aftermath of this event unfold. Even at my young age I had made up my mind back then who I felt was to blame and stood by this too after all these years. I was surprised then to see the documentary had been made and knew I had to see this a) to get an insight of both athletes) b) to see if after all this time I had been accusing the wrong person and would this documentary actually correct my views?
In case you’re wondering I’ll get straight to it. Having watched the documentary, did my opinion change after staying up late to watch this new footage… no! I also recorded this program on my Sky box and even coming home after a late shift and watching this program again!! when the rest of the house was asleep into the early hours of the morning I can honestly say it made my feelings towards this collision even stronger that I personally still, cannot believe another runner could accuse the runner, who was in front of tripping the runner who was behind where Mary was running? (Tad confusing eh?) In the process of deliberately ruining her Olympic dreams and then had the audacity to get the whole of the United States of America hound Zola Budd a quiet timid girl originally from South Africa and making her public enemy number 1 for doing absolutely nothing wrong other than trying to fulfil her own childhood dream of running far and fast, winning Olympic gold in front of Mary Decker’s own adoring fans. I mean, seriously… how dare her?? Every American in that stadium and across the county I honestly cannot believe they could treat Zola or even another human being for that matter in this way… and for so long too. An apology is long, long overdue and those in media at the time handled the situation quite appallingly too I must add. There is no doubting which the documentary highlighted, Mary Decker could run, oh my god what a talent! head strong and determined and her running times would give today’s athletes a problem to beat her but footage of her at a young age showed a tough upbringing but also showed a side of her which was quite ruthless that she must win at all costs and no one dare challenge her? Which was an attitude that she appeared to carry through into adulthood? In athletics this can be a good thing to help you progress but this was way too extreme and as an athlete you must know you will face challengers who are the other athletes standing next to you on the start line, who are just as determined to beat you too? That’s the game! No?? With Mary’s side of the story shown, was Zola’s upbringing any easier in South Africa where apartheid was at its worst? Thank god that country has seen sense and abolished such regime? Living like that daily from a young age amongst all that hostility? Really??? I could not possible imagine the severity of such a life?
I’m sure many of you have your opinions on this race and how events unfolded we may also agree to disagree but one thing we will agree for sure on, which sadly IS noticeable in the documentary is that this was an Olympic race. A race where in 1984 the fastest 3000m runners had trained all their lives for this one race. They were all racing to become an Olympic champion or if not achieve a silver or bronze medal to fulfil their dreams. This collision and “fall” have been talked about for such a long time it has clearly has taken the Olympic prestige and limelight off from the eventual winner Maricica Puica from Romania and even fellow Briton Wendy Sly who finished second and Lynn Williams of Canada finishing third. Anyone know any other finishers in this race, without using google I’m sure you don’t which is such a shame that these three athletes can finish first, second, and third and no one mentions them but continuously talk about a runner who did not finish and a runner who limped home eventually in seventh place. I would have hoped this documentary could have included interviews with the gold, silver and bronze medallists just to give them some credit they do deserve that every other Olympic race result warrants such praise! but just goes to show they have slipped through the net and are sadly forgotten athletes.
The final scenes of the documentary shows Mary and Zola meeting up again in the very stadium for the first time since 1984 and going for a run together which I think is quite amazing. I can assure you if I was Zola, with my personality I wouldn’t even look at Mary again let alone mention her name without my blood boiling over the ferocious bullying Zola received. So hats off to you Zola Budd you are a much better person than I.