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Aldershot, Farnham and District AC

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Zola Budd



Born in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, Zola Budd broke her first record at 13. Having abandoned her university education to concentrate on athletic training, in January 1984 she ran 5,000 metres in 15 minutes 1.83 seconds, 7 seconds faster than Mary Decker’s existing record. However, Budd’s achievement could not be recognized as South Africa had been banned from international sporting events because of its policy of apartheid.Determined to compete at the 1984 Olympics and also being egged on by her father, Budd applied for British citizenship on the grounds that she had a British grandfather. Supported by the Daily Mail newspaper, her claim was rapidly granted, amid angry protests. On reaching Britain she settled in Guildford and joined AFD although she rarely competed for the club but she did win the South of England Cross Country Championships in 1986 in an AFD vest. The infamous collision between Decker & Budd


Obviously the main reason for her coming to Britain was to compete in the Los Angeles Olympics and she duly gained selection to run in the 3000 metres. The story of the 3000 metres in the Los Angeles Olympics is well known. Mary Decker, the home-town favourite was expected to win with Zola Budd being rated as her most serious rival. After about 1700 metres there was a coming together and debates on who was to blame still rage. The result was that Decker fell and did not finish whilst this incident led to Budd being booed and jeered throughout the rest of the race. Obviously distressed, Budd finally finished seventh.  In 1985 Budd won the European Cup 3,000 metres title and set a new world record of 14 minutes 48.07 seconds for the 5,000 metres. In addition to world cross-country titles in 1985-86 she set the world indoor record for the 3,000 metres in 1986. Banned from the Commonwealth Games that year as a result of continued controversy, she returned, disappointed, to South Africa in 1988.Zola was really quite a remarkable athlete. She nearly always ran in barefeet, claiming that she found it more comfortable than wearing spikes. Indeed her two World Cross Country victories were barefooted. She has a remarkable record on the track. She ran 3:59.96 for 1500m in 1985 (2nd in UK All-time list), 4:17.57 for the mile (still a UK record), 5:30.19 for 2000m (a UK time only bettered by Yvonne Murray) and 8:28.83 and 14:48.07 for 3000m and 5000m respectively – these times only having been bettered by Paula Radcliffe on the UK all-time lists. Zola Budd winning the World Cross Country in 1986


The day of the Olympic 3000m final was not all doom and gloom. In an excerpt from her autobiography, Zola recalls “The one bright spot on a day that was to shake the athletics world came when the athletes in the 3000 metres final had to show their running spikes to an official, whose task it was to see that the spikes conformed to specifications. I was barefoot, so I just picked up my feet and showed them to him, white plasters on my toes and all. The poor man nearly cracked up laughing, but what else could I have done? Everybody else had spikes and I had to show him something”