Again with the ESPN Classic. When there's no new track on TV, you get what you can.
The other night they covered 1984, and spent a few minutes revisiting the Mary Slaney incident at the '84 OG. I'm curious what others here think about it, as I've rarely discussed it with real track fans.
At the time, my experience in the sport was one season of junior high cross country (where I was usually so far back that there weren't many people for me to trip over). I remember immediately thinking that contact was part of the sport, and she sure looked like a real crybaby out there. I couldn't bear to watch the other night because her general attitude still makes me cringe -- you shouldn't be angry about falling when you run right up someone's back.
I thought it was just one of those things... Mary at that point was very uncomfortable in pack running which she never had to do in the US and simply could not deal with running in a group. Zola Budd was probably in a similar position. Put those two things together and someone is likely to go down. I do remember very distinctly the look on Mary's face which said "How dare you ruin my Olympic Victory". Sad display. However she did mature with age and experience and was a joy in the mid 90's on when she was a little more humble and seasoned with others.
Yeah, she was humble all right. Does anyone remember her taking a victory lap at the '96 trials after the 5K? Like she'd won the thing? Have some class Mary. The winner goes around first. She was/is an unclassy individual. She never changed in that regard.
In my view there is nothing wrong with an athlete who has gone thru "hell and high water" (including multiple injuries and operations) in making a difficult comeback taking a victory lap. I loved seeing her make the team and I cheered her all the way thru her victory lap.
I have a friend who made several international teams when Mary was a young teen. The coaches assisgned someone daily to 'babysit' Mary. While the others toured European cities, someone had to hang with Mary. She says it was unbearable. Mary was very difficult, whiner, demanding, temper outbursts, etc. Of course Mary then kicked butt in the meets, thus got even more attention. The women bribed each other to take their turn with Mary. I am not knocking Mary as such a young person. God knows I wouldn't want judged on my behavior and attitude at 14. I was just passing on what I think is a humerous story.
I was present in the stadium in Atlanta during that race. Libbie Hickman, who didn't make the team, took it out on the pentultimate lap and made the race, yet didn't place. The stadium was going wild and believe me, the fact that Mary made the team was popularly received. I was so pumped that after I got back to my hotel in Buckhead after the meet, I went out and ran a hard five miles, despite the late hour.
Coincidentally, I was watching a tape with that very race on it this evening. I felt bad for Libbie. What else was she going to do? She couldn't think she was going to match kicks with Jennings, Slaney, or Rudolph, but grinding it out wasn't going to work either. While disappointed, she should be proud she gave her best effort and strategy available at the time. Please don't say she should've gone earlier as she appeared to be hanging on for a while. Slaney was definately popular that night and it was good to see someone come all the way back who had been at the top and so far down.
Here are the top finishers in that 1996 Women's 5000m trials race:
1-Lynn Jennings 15:28.18
2-Mary Slaney 15:29.39
3-Amy Rudolf 15:29.91
4-Libbie Johnson 15:30.77
5-Annette Peters 15:39.91
6-Cheri Goddard 15:41.80
This was a typical hot and humid Atlanta night. Not New Orleans, but not Oslo, either. I rode the same MARTA train back to town as Annette Peters, who told me that her time "sucked". Three weeks later, Peters popped a 15:00 at Bislett, while Rudloph got a 14:56 at Stockholm. Slaney's and Johnson's (Hickman) times that night was her season best.
>Again with the ESPN Classic. When there's no new
>track on TV, you get what you can.
>night they covered 1984, and spent a few minutes
>revisiting the Mary Slaney incident at the '84
>OG. I'm curious what others here think about it,
>as I've rarely discussed it with real track
At the time, my experience in the sport
>was one season of junior high cross country
>(where I was usually so far back that there
>weren't many people for me to trip over). I
>remember immediately thinking that contact was
>part of the sport, and she sure looked like a
>real crybaby out there. I couldn't bear to watch
>the other night because her general attitude
>still makes me cringe -- you shouldn't be angry
>about falling when you run right up someone's
What's the general consensus? Or isn't
Ironic topic. I had just listened to an ex-Arkansas assistant coach(won't name him) who was speaking about the Paralympics and Special Olympics. He actually talked for quite some time
about heart and perseverance. But he went on to talk about a 200 meter paralympian whose prosthetic leg actualy came off during the race. He tried to put it back on and couldn't, so he hopped the rest of the way on one leg. Everybody was tearing up and could barely compose themselves. Then coach brought up how embarassed he was for a certain athlete(Mary Slaney), who thought that everything was owed her. Who fell during the Olympics and instead of immediately
getting up, started crying like the race was over. Well, it wasn't over. It puts everything into perspective. One had the balls to finish, to do something about it. One didn't.
I'll tackle a few with opinions. After all, one is as good as the next. I feel Mary has always had trouble focusing on a race when others were around. Watch her. Whether leading alone or in a pack, her eyes go from her own feet, to the stands, to the big screen, to the leader, to the ground, etc. Any wonder she bumps and collides. With 200 to go in the '96 OT 5K, she drifts in front of Rudolph and gets her heels clipped nearly falling. Few remember that. Was she dirty? I love T&F too much to go on anything besides what the testing says. I am not naive, but I do believe that if she beat the test, then many others did as well, so I take it for what it's worth. No negative test for THAT race, then I accept it. If I want to see our sport as more than professional wrestling, and I do, what other attitude can I take?
>Ironic topic. I had just listened to an ex-Arkansas
>assistant coach(won't name him) who was speaking
>about the Paralympics and Special Olympics. He
>actually talked for quite some time
about heart >and perseverance. But he went on to talk about >a 200 meter paralympian whose prosthetic leg
>actualy came off during the race. He tried to
>put it back on and couldn't, so he hopped the
>rest of the way on one leg. Everybody was
>tearing up and could barely compose themselves.
>Then coach brought up how embarassed he was for
>r a certain athlete(Mary Slaney), who thought
>that everything was owed her. Who fell during
>the Olympics and instead of immediately
>up, started crying like the race was over. Well,
>it wasn't over. It puts everything into
>perspective. One had the balls to finish, to do
>something about it. One didn't.
I wholeheartedly agree.>>
What a crock of shit. Were you there at either incident? Logic says the guy without the prothesis suffered a moment of minor discomfort. Slany (who was a bitch, but why tar and feather her where not appropriate?) went down hard, tried to get up and couldn't. She needed a significant rehab period for her damaged hip.
If you had seen her double golds at the World Championships the years before you'd have a new definition of what "balls" are all about. You're undoubtedly pissed off because she could beat you at any distance she wanted, including the 400. When she was 14.
the truth is Slaney never did learn how to run a tactical race. In that trials race she did cause the contact with Rudolph. Then she has to look all around as if saying, hey I got bumped. That's how it works, Mary. There is contact in races. She always seemed surprised that someone would bump or crowd her and she seemed completely incapable of running in close quarters. She caused the contact with Rudolph and then appeared to wait for someone to call a foul. People get bumped and shoved and crowded every day in distance races but Slaney never learned how to handle it.
I always thought the real loser in the LA 3000 was Maricica Puica, who ran very well but will always be thought of as having won a tainted race. My suspicion is that Puica would have won if everyone had stayed on their feet.
Remember that the Mary we saw in '84 wasn't the same as in '83. She couldn't pull of the 3000/1500 double at the Olympic Trials, losing the 1500 in a thrilling, classic race to Ruth Wysocki.
Mary also wasn't the same runner in '84 that we saw in '85, when she dominated the European season for nearly two months, not just a single week as she did in Helsinki in '83.
mmmm - I have mixed feelings about Mary Decker Slaney. I saw her run 2:00 indoors as a 14 yr old. Unbelievable. I think she was one of the great talents in track ... in track, not personality - which I only heard about, never witnessed. I WAS surprised she never quite 'got there', which I'm guessin she knew as well.
84 Oly 5k, I thought, was hers to lose - and the only real chance she had at victory (it wasn't a gimme tho - a la Puica). I also think 'pack running' victims are almost always created by the individual - she shouldn't have been there - mental or circumstantial error - I felt bad for her, but it was preventable.
Not many Mary Deckers but alas - many Mary Slaneys.
>Oly 5k, I thought, was hers to lose - and the
>only real chance she had at victory (it wasn't a
>gimme tho - a la Puica
I'm sure you mean the 3k. Only thing is, it really WASN'T "hers to lose"...it just seemed that way after the 83 Worlds.
Before the first Worlds meet in 1983, there was only the Games every four years as any kind of world-scope championships. Under this international schedule, the Soviet distance runners were on a two-year training/racing/resting cycle as far as periodization. They were looking for their racing best on even numbered years, especially that fourth year when The Olympic Games, the Eastern Bloc system's propaganda bread and butter payoff, were held on the international stage for all to see.
When the first Worlds meet came about, many athletes and coaches were still a little hesitant about just how important a meet it would be, remembering the idea that the World Cup (started in the late seventies) was supposed to be designed to be a better world-scope championship than the Olympics but didn't amount to much in that respect. As such, many chose to not mortage the farm training and racing-wise for the unproven product, although most truly hoped the meet would be what it indeed turned out to be, that year and in years to come. Many western athletes did their usual "get sharp and race the circuit" plan, choosing the bird in the hand bucks and travel to the risk of the later benefit of "winning the big one," Olympic Games style (Viren).
Almost everything good enjoyed in the present can be traced to the work done in the past. Thanks to the previous few years of self career-denying help of her former husband Ron Tabb and tailored-for-her coaching of Dick Brown and finanacial/medical support of Athletics West, the 1983 Worlds found Decker healthy and fit, finally racing consistantly at the highest level. The Soviets, while definitely fit and having modified the training cycle, had not completely treated the Worlds as The Games. Several other western athletes, as mentioned above, had the same perspective (though mostly males making money on the usual circuit).
Decker was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of her speed, strength, and consistant health, as far as the field. And all credit to her for doing so.
The next year, Decker lost the health part of the equation by having yet another nagging injury--something at the very least damaging psychologically to her (why she didn't lead quite so fearlessly in LA as she had in Helsinki?). The Soviets had boycotted [God, for those of us who lived through three of those in our Track lives, it is absolutely loathsome to even WRITE that word!], aborting their two-year/four-year peaking cycle. But the rest of the world--the Pucica's, the Wendy Sly's, the West German woman (whose name escapes me right now), etc--the people who had spent 1983 doing special things for 1984, training at altitude, gearing up for LA, etc., *THESE* people were now ready. Even healthy, Decker was not a guarantee to anyone but the American media. Now, with an injury...
I saw the '84 Oly race (seated on the straight about 30 yards back and 15 rows up of where the collision occurred) in which Mary Decker Slaney was tripped-up by Zola Budd, who was not quite on the pole but veering out. Zola Budd's running "style" was that of a prehistoric cavegirl.
Budd was first disqualified, but later "reinstated" by the gutless Oly race officials.
Decker's "fault" was A) not immediately getting up and back on the track, B) crying, C) later being carried off by her boyfriend/husband. The latter two "faults' have driven the media and "purists" crazy, many of whom disliked her coming into the L.A. Games and loathed her after.
My initial reaction on that night in 1984 was to rush out and throttle Zola Budd. Nineteen years later and that reaction still holds. If you want to see real whiners and totally self-absorbed cheats, just look at any professional sport over the last 20 years.
It's crystal clear that Slaney caused the accident. Can't trip someone when you are in front as Budd was. The truth is that Slaney ran up the backside of Budd. Watch the video. Watch Budd's leg go flying out to the side after Slaney has stepped on Budd. Watch it all over again umpteen years later in Atlanta when she can't handle the traffic in the trials in '96. The woman never learned how to race in a crowded situation.