Zola Budd: A Cheating Runner?

For many people, Zola Budd, is known as a cheating runner due to an event that occurred during the Olympics in 1984.

Zola was born on May 26, 1966 in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, South Africa. Even though she is a South African athlete, she represented Great Britain at an international level at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

During Olympics, she was the protagonist of what some believe to be one of the most unsporting behaviors of world athletics.

Her career as an athlete started when she was 17 and set the 5,000 meters world record in Stellenbosch, South Africa, with a beat of 15:01,83, running barefoot, as she used to train and compete.

That year the Los Angeles Olympics were held. Zola Budd could not take part of it due to the veto imposed on South Africa for its politics of racial segregation that had excluded that country from the Olympics since 1960.

As a result, and thanks to her excellent sports skills, Great Britain persuaded Zola Budd to request the citizenship to compete on its behalf; she attained this extremely quickly with the help of the British press.

Having the citizenship and the pertaining authorizations, Budd took part in the 3,000 meter race at the Los Angeles Olympics, 1984, and she did it barefoot, as usual.

Cheating or Accident

The final was on August 11. The first part of the race was quite slow and unruffled until Zola Budd decided to take the lead away from her competitors in the middle of the race.

On the other hand, her rival and the favorite competitor to win the race, the American Mary Decker, was behind Budd.

At a certain point, they touched each other and Decker stumbled and fell to the floor. As a result, she hurt her leg and had to quit. Budd went on though in the end she got 7th position as a result of the tiredness caused by the effort she had previously made.

Her collision with Mary Decker was one of the major controversies of the Olympics, since the American media and Decker herself blamed Zola Budd for having made her fall on purpose, while the British media supported Budd.

Before going on, here is the video for you to know what we are talking about.

Now that you have seen the video, what do you think? Do you believe that it was an accident or that Zola had the intention to come across Mary Decker to block her way? Was there an unsporting behavior or did the pressure exerted by the media against the South African athlete that had a British citizenship exaggerated the story?

After the Olympics, Zola’s sporting career continued. In 1985, she became a world cross-country champion in Lisbon; the following year she also became a world cross-country champion in Neuchâtel. She won both races running barefoot.

Later, on August 26, she set a new 5,000 meters world record in London of 14:48,07 which was then acknowledged by the IAAF. On February 8, 1986, she set the 3,000 meters world record of 8:39,79 indoor in Cosford, England.