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The Fall


The Fall

Wednesday 21 February 8.30pm Channel 039

One of the sporting decade's most controversial episodes took place on August 11, 1984. 12 athletes lined up for the women’s 3,000m at the Los Angeles Olympic Games – but this was always a two-person race,  the hot favourite versus a virtual unknown; 26-year-old Mary Decker, blonde darling of Team USA with a string of world records behind her, against 18-year-old Zola Budd, a shy South African prodigy who preferred to run without shoes. The crowds were expecting a historic showdown. But what actually happened created more of a storm than anyone could have predicted. 1,700m in, Decker and Budd were leading the field when Budd appeared to try to move in front of her rival. Decker tripped and fell to the side of the track, wailing in agony, her race over. Budd ran on to a chorus of boos from the audience and finished an inglorious seventh.  The South African apologised to Decker, but the snapped reply was “Don’t bother”. Decker held a tearful press conference, blamed Budd for her fall and earned herself the nickname “America’s crybaby”.   In the decades since, and despite their many sporting achievements, neither athlete has ever been able to shake off the association with “the incident”, as Budd now calls it. Both Budd and Decker agreed to the new documentary, hoping at last that they might lay the race to rest.