ESPN will air the latest film in its alluring Nine for IX documentary series on Tuesday evening. "Runner" tells the story of the controversial collision at the 1984 Summer Olympics between Mary Decker and Zola Budd in the women's final of the 3000-meter run.
The film, directed by Shola Lynch, will be televised at 8 p.m. ET and runs approximately one hour in length. An encore presentation airs on ESPN2 on Wednesday at 1 a.m.
It promises to be a stunning look back at one of the most intriguing, unfortunate and infamous sagas in the history of sports.
The American Decker was widely considered a favorite to win the 3000-meter race, especially after capturing the gold medal at the 1983 World Championships in the event. At age 25 entering the Olympics, she was running exceptionally in all sorts of distances, from as low as 800 meters to as great as 10,000.
The extent of her achievements were unprecedented and hard to fathom, thus justifying her status as the clear-cut top choice to take home the gold:
Sadly, it wasn't meant to be due to an entanglement with Budd, who finished seventh. Decker, the prohibitive favorite, did not even manage to cross the finish line.
When the race in Los Angeles tightened up at the midway point, the crowd of runners essentially made Decker a bit claustrophobic; she later cited inexperience in such scenarios as the reason for her fall. Stuck behind Budd, Decker had nowhere to go but the deck.
The following clip focuses on the stunning fact that Decker had little time to reflect before facing the world media after the biggest disappointment of her career:
In this retrospective look, the intensely competitive Decker—who had to have such a mentality to reach the status of such an elite athlete—was clearly bitter about the outcome:
It's nearly impossible to blame her in the immediate aftermath, but the consequences thereafter made the deflection of blame for her role in the fall seem in poorer taste. In the post-race press conference, Decker intimated that there was "no question" Budd was in the wrong.
Typically, though, if there is some sort of mishap in the form of two runners colliding, it is viewed as the trailing runner's job to avoid contact. Decker was behind her British opponent in this case, and although officials initially disqualified Budd, that ruling was reversed upon further review.
The fall was something Decker could not even watch for approximately 29 years. As Rick Reilly of ESPN reports, she only recently watched a video replay of the collision for the first time since the day it happened:
That accentuates the extent of the disappointment Decker has felt, having set all those records but not having a gold medal at the Summer Games to show for it. Decker couldn't participate in Montreal in 1976 due to stress fractures, and the Americans boycotted the Olympics in 1980 in Moscow.
Decker never got her chance to put the ultimate capstone on her prolific career, and how she's dealt with that will be just one of the many layers to watch as this exciting documentary unfolds.
Note: All background information in this article was obtained from ESPN.com.