Mary Decker Documentary Airs Tuesday Night

  • By Duncan Larkin
  • Published Aug. 13, 2013
  • Updated Aug. 14, 2013 at 1:16 PM UTC
It all happened at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for American Mary Decker. Photo:

It’s called “Runner” and will appear on ESPN.

As part of its Nine for IX series, ESPN is airing a documentary about legendary American middle-distance runner Mary Decker.

The segment is directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Shola Lynch.

LISTEN: Mary Decker Slaney Chats With Bob Babbitt

It focuses on Decker’s race in the 3000m event at the 1984 Olympic Games. At the time, expectations were high for Decker as she had dominated events from the 800m to the 10,000m leading up to the Los Angeles Olympics.

Then 25, Decker was entering into her first Olympics and the odds were on her to win the gold in the 3000m.

However, it wasn’t to be.

In the race, 19-year-old Zola Budd from South Africa, running barefoot, crowded Decker on the inside of the lane near the halfway mark. A collision ensued and Decker fell to the ground.

At first, Decker blamed Budd for tripping her, but the two runners have since buried the hatchet.

“Is 1984, and the fall, the defining moment in her career?” asks Lynch. “Although she made the team in 1988, 1992 and 1996, she never won an Olympic medal. In the end, what is Decker’s legacy?”


Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin is the news editor at and a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released last July.

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