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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Budding Decker Blames Zola for collision
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

Aug. 10, 1984

Mary Decker's bid for Olympic gold in Los Angeles comes to a crashing halt. With a little more than three laps left in the 3,000 meters and running in the inside lane, Decker's right foot becomes tangled with the left foot of the leader, Zola Budd, the 18-year-old African who runs for Britain. Reaching out as she falls, Decker tries to grab something -- all she gets is the number 151 off Budd's back. She tries to get up, but can't. She collapses in tears.

The distraught Budd, spiked by Decker, continues the race, also in tears. The bare-footed runner fades badly on the final lap and finishes seventh. Afterwards, she tries to apologize to Decker, but is rebuffed. "Don't bother," Decker says. "Get out of here. I don't want to talk to you."

Publicly and angrily, Decker blames Budd for the collision, though not all track people believe it is Budd's fault.

"Zola Budd tried to cut in without being actually ahead," insists Decker, who suffered a torn gluteus muscle in her left hip. "Her foot upset me. To avoid pushing her, I fell. Looking back, I should have pushed her. But the headlines tomorrow would have read, 'Mary Decker Pushes Zola.'"

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