Olympic Collision: The Story of Mary Decker and Zola Budd by Kyle Keiderling the stories of two runners, who took very different paths to that fateful moment. Through exhaustive research and interviews with many people who worked with or were close to both runners. The reader learns about that fateful day, but also about the behind the scenes during each runner’s training, family life and their careers after the 1984 Olympics. It is written in an easy to read, entertaining style that brings each runner to life.
Mary Decker was the favorite for the gold medal in the women’s 3,000 meter race. Nineteen-year-old Zola Budd, a native of South Africa who was representing Great Britain was the one runner who posed a threat. During the finals, the two runners collided and tumbled to the ground, ending the race for both of them and leaving a famous image of Decker wailing in physical and emotional pain.
The public perception of the two runners in the immediate aftermath of their collision was sympathetic to Budd and critical of Decker. I found the book to have a similar pattern, as Decker is portrayed throughout the book as a difficult person, both privately and publicly.
Budd was very cooperative and gave the author so much information about her difficulties during the early 1980’s. Budd unwillingly became a symbol of South Africa’s apartheid political system. Her move to Great Britain to run for that nation was orchestrated by a London newspaper and her father, from whom she later became estranged. Through all this, Keiderling paints a more sympathetic picture of Budd, who many times before and after the Olympics simply stated that she just wanted to run.
There are also significant passages about specific training methods for runners, the allegations of the use of performance enhancing drugs, and what protesters and international athletic associations felt about Budd’s citizenship in Great Britain. This information is important toward understanding the complex lives of both women.
The stories of these two female runners and the one moment that will link the two of them together forever make for a great read. Any reader who wants to learn more about these outstanding athletes or the inside world of the Olympics and running will want to add this page-turner to his or her library.
I received this book from University of Nebraska Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.