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The Notorious Tangle of Feet Between Zola Budd and Mary Decker

In the Blink of an Eye

The start of the women’s 3,000-meter race went as expected. Mary Decker flew ahead first, with Zola Budd basically breathing on her neck in second and Maricica Puica not far behind in third. For three rounds, Budd and Decker virtually teased each other, almost making contact in every turn.

Mary Decker Falling in 3000 Meter Race

Photo By Getty Images/ Bettmann

But the fourth round was the game-changer. Mary Decker’s historic fall happened so quickly that if you blinked, you missed it. One moment she was in the lead, and the next, she was on the grass beside the tracks wailing in anguish, lifting her disoriented gaze towards Budd’s back which gradually grew smaller and smaller as she ran off in the distance.