South Africa's Zola Budd receives trophy 28 years later

Former world record holder & SA sensation Zola Budd / Photo: GlobeRunner.org

Former world record holder & barefoot running sensation Zola Budd received her Newsmaker of the Year trophy on Friday, 28 years after she had been selected to get the award by the Johannesburg Press Club.

Budd was honoured in September 1984 as the first and youngest Newsmaker of the Year, but never received the trophy because it is a floating trophy and no replica was available for her.

A gala banquet was held at the Ellis Park rugby stadium. British Tory MP John Carlisle was the keynote speaker and South African musician Nick Taylor wrote and sang a song in her honour.

The shy 17-year-old barefoot runner from Bloemfontein thanked the Press Club in one sentence in Afrikaans.

On Friday, Deputy Sports Minister Gert Oosthuizen presented the yellow-wood trophy to Budd, 45, who would be competing in her first Comrades ultra-marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban in June.

Budd, who now lives in Myrtle Beach, South California in the US, spoke eloquently in English for almost ten 10 minutes.

"A lot of things have changed, a lot of things haven't changed. I am still the same person, I am still Zola Budd," she said.

"I still find it very challenging and that is why I am running the Comrades. It's all about the camaraderie."

The mother of three said her eldest daughter Lisa ran cross-country and the youngest ran for fun.

"I will encourage them to be busy, but never to be competitive runners," Budd said.

"Life is too short and there are just too many other things to do. I encourage them to use running as a tool to stay healthy and promote a healthy attitude to life."

Budd said she was still active and competing in her age group.

"I started running seriously at the age of 14 and I turned 45 this year, but I'm still looking forward to running. I still find it challenging and that is why I encouraged other women to run as well."

Budd is also in the country to promote Newton running shoes, which simulate barefoot running, for which she is famous.

She first made heads turn in 1983 when she clocked a remarkable time of 8:39.00 over 3 000m in Durban at the age of 16.

In 1984, she broke the women's 5,000m world record. The International Amateur Athletics Federation however refused to recognise the performance because South Africa had been banned from competing internationally before the start of the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964.

The Daily Mail, a British tabloid newspaper, persuaded Budd's father Frank to encourage her to apply for British citizenship – on the grounds that her grandfather was British – to side-step the international sporting boycott of South Africa.

Later that year, competing for the United Kingdom, she collided with Mary Decker in the 3,000m final at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Budd eventually finished seventh, while the American favourite was carried from the track.

Budd officially claimed the 5 000m world record while representing Great Britain in 1985, clocking 14:48.07.

She remains the holder of numerous British and South African records at junior and senior levels and still holds two junior world records; the mile and the 3,000m.

"You are one of the greatest athletes ever produced and we wish you well in the Comrades," concluded Oosthuizen.

Twitter Follow