Directed by Daniel Gordon
28th July 2016
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
This is a engrossing and brilliantly edited documentary centred around two young athletes, the barefooted Zola Budd and Mary Decker, who famously collided on the track during the women’s 3000 metres race at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.
Personally 1984 was a special year for me and I remember the furore this incident caused around the world and the lead up to the race when the 17-year-old Budd, a naive youngster from rural South Africa – this was during the oppressive apartheid regime imposed in that country at that time – was issued with a British passport, because she had an English grandfather, to compete under the Union Jack flag in LA. This was done to allow her to adopt British nationality to avoid the international sporting boycott of South Africa.
This fast-tracking was due to the manipulation and machinations of the infamous Daily Mail, who gave the father of Budd £100,000 – Zola received little of it – for exclusive rights to her story. Yes, what a story! She had lived in the countryside all of her tender years and ran quickly. Little else for her to say about her life at that time.
Budd received a lot of verbal abuse for running for Team GB and, despite being only a teenager, was decried, mainly by black spokespeople, for not speaking out against and condemning apartheid in South Africa. I found that accusation against her vacuous in the extreme. She had no understanding at all about the issues involved and was so naive that she did not know in 1984 who Nelson Mandela was.
I found the story of Budd far more interesting of the two athletes than the American superstar Decker, who came across as very self centred, spiteful, arrogant and a prima donna.
They both now acknowledge that the clash was an accident but I find that hard to believe of Decker.
The only aspect of the documentary which I felt was unnecessary was Budd and Decker meeting up again this year at the Los Angeles stadium where the race had taken place. I found this stage managed.