SPORTS

Former sensation Budd, now 45, enters Comrades ultra marathon in South Africa

01/13/2012 11:35 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT
JOHANNESBURG - Former world record holder and barefoot running sensation Zola Budd will compete in South Africa's Comrades ultra marathon this year.

Budd, 45, said she still finds running "very challenging" and it's the reason she's entered the gruelling 90-kilometre race in June.

"I started running seriously at the age of 14 and I've turned 45, but I still look forward to running. I still find it challenging," the farm girl turned Olympian told members of the Johannesburg Press Club on Friday.

Budd, who now lives in the United States, is visiting her country of birth and received the press club's Newsmaker of the Year trophy — 28 years after she won it in 1984 in the aftermath of competing at the Los Angeles Olympics. The trophy had apparently briefly gone missing and no replica was available.

At the time, just months after her collision with Mary Decker at the 1984 Olympics, the shy teenager thanked the press club in just one sentence in her native Afrikaans, members remembered. She was the first winner of the award.

Budd sprang to fame from humble origins on a farm in central South Africa for her raw talent as a 14-year-old who ran without shoes and sometimes paced herself alongside ostriches.

She twice broke the 5,000-metre world record although her first effort — when she was 17 in 1984 — wasn't recognized by international athletics authorities because it happened in apartheid South Africa.

She did it again a year later when she had moved to and begun competing for Britain.

Budd, still a household name in South Africa, is probably best remembered for a collision with home favourite Decker — now Mary Slaney — in the 3,000 metres final at the Los Angeles Games. It ended Decker's race while the young Budd, clearly affected, faded out of contention.

It was a pivotal moment in a complicated career for Budd, who had to leave South Africa during apartheid and run for Britain for her ability to be recognized internationally.

She faced opposition from anti-apartheid campaigners and a hostile reaction from a partizan crowd after that dramatic race at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Now, it seems Budd still loves running but doesn't miss the pressure of competing.

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

Budd added that she didn't want any of her three children to become athletes.

"I will encourage them to be busy but never to be competitive runners. Life is too short and there are just too many other things to do," she said.

MORE:cpSports