Runner: Director's Moment
About the film
The expectations were sky high for American distance runner Mary Decker as she lined up to make her Olympic debut in the 3,000 meters at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Decker had displayed unwavering dominance in every distance (from 800 to 10,000 meters) heading into the event, and her wholesome image graced magazine covers and adorned walls all over the world.
At age 25, it was her first Olympics; stress fractures in her leg kept her out of the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and the U.S. boycott prevented her from competing in the 1980 Moscow Games. The 3,000 in L.A. was to be her coronation, the gold medal that would validate her greatness.
But there was another compelling figure in the race, a 19-year-old barefooted South African running for Great Britain, Zola Budd. Just past the midway point of the race, Budd crowded Decker on the inside lane and, in the panic and urgency of the moment, they collided. Decker fell to the track. Budd would regain her stride, but finish a distant seventh behind the winner, Romania's Maricica Puica.
"Runner" revisits one of the most infamous moments in sports history, and what life has brought the athletes since.
Click here to learn more about the film and its director, Shola Lynch.
What it was all about
The collision between Decker and Budd -- and the reaction out of it -- was overwhelming. It also seemed to define Decker's career.
"I really do think Mary Decker has been miscast in so many ways," Lynch said. "First, she was miscast as America's sweetheart. Then, she was miscast as a cry baby. Really, what she has always been is a woman with an intense desire to run and compete. And I think the movie title, 'Runner,' really alludes to that. That this is something that kind of feeds her soul; it's a compulsion, an obsession. She has to do it."
Decker and Budd again raced against each other in the 3,000 meters at a 1985 meet in London, a race that Decker won, with Budd finishing fourth.
"Mary has always been criticized," Lynch said. "She was being criticized for not being nice or not paying attention to the press, so [the 1984 Olympics], in a way, when she is being criticized, is nothing new -- it only means she turned inward, because what drove her was not the outward, was not the media, was not that attention. What actually drove her was the running."
DIRECTOR'S TAKE: SHOLA LYNCH
Director Shola Lynch breaks down an important scene from the film "Runner":
This is my life and this is the way it is. I know now that the grand plan for me was not to be successful at the Olympics, but that doesn't mean I wasn't successful as an athlete, or a person. I've always loved what running gave me as far as the way I felt personally.Mary Decker, from the Nine for IX film 'Runner'