Documentary Tells the Story of How One Fateful Misstep Changed the Careers and Lives of Two Athletes Forever
The next film in ESPN Films’ and espnW’s Nine for IX series, Runner, will premiere on Tuesday, August 13, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. The film, directed by award-winning filmmaker Shola Lynch, tells the story of American distance runner Mary Decker as she lined up to make her Olympic debut in the 3,000 meters at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Decker had displayed unwavering dominance in every distance from the 800 to 10,000 meters. Her wholesome image graced magazine covers and adorned walls all over the world for more than a decade when she was known as “Little Mary Decker.” And at the age of 26, this was her first Olympics: she was barely too young to be eligible to compete in the 1972 Munich Games, stress fractures in her leg had kept her out of the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the U.S. boycott prevented her from competing in the 1980 Moscow Olympics. So the 3,000 was to be her coronation, the gold medal that would validate her greatness.
As fate would have it, though, there was another compelling figure in the race, a 19-year-old barefooted South African running for Great Britain, Zola Budd. Just past the midway point of the race, Budd crowded Decker on the inside lane, and in the panic and urgency of the moment, they collided. Decker fell to the track with a look of anguish. Budd would regain her stride but finish a distant seventh behind the winner, Romanian Maricica Puica. Decker initially blamed Budd, but in later years they reconciled and tried to get past the collision. Still, the one moment of heartbreak and Decker’s response to it came to define what should have been a glorious career.
Shola Lynch (Free Angela and All Political Prisoners) is a seasoned documentary filmmaker and former track star who was called “the next Mary Decker.” She holds a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University and is working on a book based on her new film.
The remaining films in the Nine for IX series on ESPN will air 8 p.m. ET as follows (Digital screeners available upon request):
August 20: The 99ers
August 27: Branded
Films that have already aired in the series are Venus Vs., Pat XO, Let Them Wear Towels, No Limits, Swoopes and The Diplomat. All Nine for IX films will be available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon the day following air. A collectible DVD gift set with all films will also be available on October 15, 2013.
Follow the Nine for IX series on twitter at @30for30 and @espnW. Fans can join the conversation with the hashtag #Runner
About Nine for IX
ESPN Films and espnW present Nine for IX, executive produced by Robin Roberts and Jane Rosenthal, featuring nine documentary films about women in sports directed by Oscar-nominated, Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning female filmmakers. Inspired by the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the series will air over nine consecutive Tuesdays on ESPN at 8 PM ET beginning July 2, 2013. Stories include Venus Williams fight for equal pay at Wimbledon, the largely unknown history of Katarina Witt and her link with East Germany’s secret police, an intimate look at Pat Summitt—college sports’ most successful coach ever, and the business of sex in the marketing of female athletes. For more information and summaries visit: Nine for IX Media Kit