Protesters Stop Budd in Mid-Race

Associated Press

Anti-apartheid demonstrators rushed onto a cross-country course Saturday and forced Zola Budd out of a race she was favored to win, leaving the South African-born track star "disappointed and frightened."

Reporters who saw the incident said that several demonstrators jumped into the path of the race leaders at the halfway mark of the 3.1-mile English national cross-country championships.

Welsh runner Angela Tooby, who won the race, was ahead by about 15 yards when the incident happened.

"I suddenly found two women jumping into my path, so I swore at them and pushed them out of my way," Tooby said.

Budd, 18, now a British citizen whose brief career has been dogged by controversy, said after the race: "At the end of the first lap I saw a policeman with a truncheon trying to keep the crowd off the course. But then people rushed on and the police couldn't stop them, so I turned off the course."

She added: "I was disappointed because I couldn't finish the race and I was frightened."

Race officials feared trouble from demonstrators protesting South Africa's policy of racial separation, called apartheid. Mounted police rode alongside the runners to try to prevent an invasion of the course in this northwestern English town.

But three protesters managed to break through a section of the crowd--estimated at 7,000--and force Budd off the course. Police later said two women and a man were arrested.

Budd, who became a British citizen in time to participate in the Los Angeles Olympic Games, in which she finished seventh in the women's 3,000 meters after colliding with Mary Decker Slaney, faced protests from anti-apartheid groups when she first arrived in Britain last year.

Of the latest incident, she said: "There have been demonstrations, but never as bad as this. No one actually struck me, but I was frightened."

Her coach, Pieter Labuschagne, said: "Zola is all right and is not too upset, but after the Olympic final it was the same. It didn't really hit her until the next morning."

In the Olympics, the brushing of legs left Slaney lying injured on the trackside while Budd ran on amid booing from American fans.

The incident caused Budd to return to South Africa, threatening not to run again for Britain. But she changed her mind last December, and since returning to Britain she has had a series of track successes.

Running barefoot, she won her first two indoor races, breaking British records. She also won her first British cross-country race.

Budd had been expected to win easily Saturday and qualify for the British team for next month's world cross-country championships at Lisbon.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World