On this day in history : 11th August 1984 – South African-born British athlete Zola Budd is the centre of controversy after an accident involving Mary Decker in the 1984 Olympics 300m final….

Zola Budd

It was during the race that Budd tangled with the American resulting in a trip that put Decker out of the race…. The mainly American crowd reacted with hostility which unnerved 18 year old Budd, who could only manage to finish in seventh place – the gold medal being taken by Romanian Maricia Puica….

Because of its apartheid policy South Africa had been banned from the Games…. Budd was already in the spotlight as the UK government had fast-tracked her application to become a British citizen to allow her to compete in the Olympics for Britain – thus sparking outrage among anti-apartheid campaigners….

Budd was renowned for running barefoot…. The accident with Decker was viewed from every angle on the available film footage to determine what had happened and who was to blame…. At the half way mark Budd and Decker had twice bumped together…. Decker’s running spikes caught Budd’s heel and her leg shot out as she stumbled, which consequently tripped Decker over…. Budd carried on as Decker fell and the crowd jeered and booed….

Zola Budd, Mary Decker and Maricica Puica

After the race Decker accused Budd of trying to cut in without being far enough ahead…. Budd was disqualified – but after officials had viewed the film footage she was reinstated – the incident remained hotly debated….

Budd continued to compete for Great Britain for four more years and broke several British and world records – but she could never shake off the political controversy…. She returned to South Africa in 1988 and now runs for pleasure near to her home in Bloemfontein….

Zola in 2012

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