The other day I was watching The One Show, and they were interviewing Zola Budd and Mary Decker, two athletes who competed against each other in the 1984 Olympic Games in the 3,000m, and for the infamous fall of Decker. To this day people still question whether Budd tripped Decker, or if Decker spiked Budd… but either way, the new documentary surrounding their lives leading up to the Olympic Games, called The Fall was so interesting, and covered so much of what actually happened, behind the hype of the media.
I did miss the first 20 minutes, but the show itself was an hour and a half long so I caught up pretty quickly. Although I personally am not a big runner, I do enjoy watching Athletics when it’s on TV, and I admire the athletes running at such speed, and at such long distances. Their endurance is incredible, and I can understand the hardships they must have endured during training, as I did through swimming. So, watching the “behind the scenes” of both athletes lives leading up to the Olympics was fascinating.
One of the things that struck me was how awful the whole process was for Budd. She loved running, and was good at it. Then she was discovered by the Daily Mail, who wanted her to compete for Great Britain, as South Africa at the time was not allowed to compete in the Olympics because of Apartheid. Budd’s father was horrible, and was clearly interested in the deal for money. Budd said how she only got a small portion of the money, and her father got the rest of it, even though it was all of her own hard work. Budd moved to London, trained, and within two weeks she wanted to go back home. Her love of running was becoming more about money and status and winning, and less about the joy of it. Furthermore, the press wasn’t making things any easier, as they would constantly ask her about Apartheid and South African politics.
My mum is South African, and around the same age as Budd, and she was watching this with me. She told me that they didn’t really hear much about Nelson Mandela while he was in prison, because the South African government didn’t want them to hear about him. So when Budd was being asked all of these questions about this man called Mandela, it was understandable why she was confused. I mean, I would be confused as to why the media weren’t asking me questions about my sport, especially in a language which I don’t speak very well!
Then there was the media in America. Decker was nicknamed “Queen Mary”, and everyone was asking about how she felt about Zola Budd. I understand the first couple of times are okay, but when it comes to each and every interview, I can see why she began to get frustrated. Why couldn’t they ask about the other athletes? Both of these women were incredible in their sport, and were probably the top two female athletes at the time, which is definitely portrayed in the documentary.
What I loved about it, was that it was unbias. It doesn’t show Budd or Decker to be the bad guy. They were just two women who loved to run. Decker was unfortunate, as she missed out on the 1980’s Olympics in Moscow because of the Boycott, and then when she tripped on Budd’s foot in the 1984 Olympics, it’s understandable as to why she was so devastated. All of her chances to win seemed to keep being taken away from her.
After the infamous incident, the crowd began to boo Budd, who at this point was in the lead, and that was the worst part for me to watch. This girl was still so young, and the crowd was so full of hate. It was disgusting. And it lead to Budd making the decision that she didn’t want to stand on the podium at the end. She knew she had to finish the race, but she didn’t want to come in the top three positions, and so the world could not see what she was made of. She came in sixth place after having a steady lead for the entire race, and that was heartbreaking.
I am a very competitive person, especially when it comes to races and swimming, and even though I may not always come in first place, at the end of the day it’s a good time that I’d be looking for. I’m sure Budd must have had a similar attitude at one point, because all sportspeople must have something to strive for. Otherwise what’s the point? If you’re competing, it’s to win and improve so watching her choose to fall back was so sad, even if it was the best decision for her.
It made me wonder what I would do if the entire crowd was booing at me. My heart would be telling me how badly I want to win, and prove to them that I won’t let them bring me down, but I know that my head would let their negativity get the better of me.
I would be interested to know if any of you watched the documentary? It aired on Sky Atlantic, so you may be able to watch it on catch-up if you are able to! If you’re into sports and documentaries, I would definitely recommend watching this, as it is so insightful, and just an extraordinary story of athletics.