Budd Reportedly Ran Away From Home Just Weeks Before Olympics

Associated Press

Zola Budd, Britain's South African-born track star, ran away from home only weeks before the L.A. Olympics, her father was quoted as saying Sunday.

Frank Budd said in an interview in the Sunday People newspaper that he and her coach searched the streets of the southern English town of Guildford for hours after the teen-ager ran off when told she couldn't go to a South African-style barbecue.

Budd, who said his daughter dislikes him and has not spoken to him for four months, told the paper that he was about to call police when he found her wandering and distraught on a Guildford street four hours after she had disappeared.

The 52-year-old Budd claimed that his daughter's coach, Pieter Labuschagne, was the cause of her running away by telling her she couldn't go to the barbecue. And he blamed Labuschagne for the rift with his daughter.

"Pieter wanted to keep Zola entirely to himself. He was jealous of any other influence," Budd said.

Recalling Zola's sudden disappearance, he recalled that the family, staying in Guildford for final pre-Olympic preparations, had been invited to a barbecue.

"She rushed off excitedly to tell Pieter, but on her return there were tears of disappointment in her eyes. She told me he wouldn't let her go," the elder Budd was quoted as saying. "Suddenly, she was gone."

"We waited and worried for two hours, but still there was no sign of her. Knowing the state of mind she was in, I was worried she might have had an accident on her bike. I searched the local parks and streets for her in my car. I finally found her in a nearby street."

The newspaper said Budd's father no longer speaks to his wife, Tossie, and lives in a converted garage outside the family farm near Bloemfontein.

The newspaper said that family disputes made the track star mentally and emotionally drained in the days preceding the Olympics.

Four months before the Olympics, Budd became a British subject because her native country is banned from international sports due to its policy of racial separation.

Budd shot to stardom by breaking junior world records and reaching the final of the Olympic 3,000 meters, where she was involved in a controversial collision with her idol and the American favorite, Mary Decker Slaney.

The collision left Decker Slaney lying in pain on the infield of the Coliseum, while Budd continued the race, amid a storm of boos from the fans, and finished seventh.

Budd returned to her homeland and threatened not to run again for Britain. But later she changed her mind.

"Back in Britain, Zola is attempting to pick up the threads of her international career with the knowledge that her family life back home in South Africa is in tatters," the newspaper said.

The newspaper quoted Budd's father as saying: "My little girl feels only hatred for me. Though I have lived only 20 feet from her room, not a word has passed between us for four months."

The runner, who won her first British indoor title Saturday, capturing the 1,500-meter race at Cosford, said after the race: "My father hasn't anything to do with me at the moment."

Her clocking Saturday of 4 minutes 11.2 seconds was the second fastest time clocked by a British runner and an all-comers' record. It was Zola's first race in Britain in seven months.

Zola said she now wants to run in a cross-country race "somewhere." Her entourage declined to say where she will make her cross-country debut, but it has been speculated that it could be the Southern Championship cross-country next Saturday.

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