Mary Decker

Mary Decker
Mary Slaney
Personal information
Birth name Mary Teresa Decker
Nationality American
Born August 4, 1958 (1958-08-04) (age 53)
Bunnvale, Hunterdon County, New Jersey
Sport Middle distance running
Retired 1999
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)

800 m: 1:56.90
1500 m: 3:57.12
mile: 4:16.71

3000 m: 8:25.83

Mary Slaney (born Mary Teresa Decker August 4, 1958, Bunnvale, Hunterdon County, New Jersey) is an American former track athlete. During her career, she won gold medals in the 1500 meters and 3000 meters at the 1983 World Championships, and set 17 official and unofficial world records and 36 US national records.[1]



Mary Decker was born in Bunnvale, Hunterdon County, New Jersey. A decade later her family moved to Southern California, where Decker started running. A year later, aged 11, she won her first local competition.[2]

She joined her school athletics club and a local track club, and completely immersed herself in running, for which she would pay an injury-laden price later in her career. Aged 12, in one week she completed a marathon and four middle- and long-distance races, ending the week with an appendectomy operation.[2]


In her early teens, Decker was already recognized as a world-class runner. Unable to attend the 1972 Olympics as she was too young, the pigtailed 89 pounds (40 kg) 14 year old nicknamed "Little Mary Decker," won international acclaim in 1973 with a win in the 800 meters at a US-Soviet meet in Minsk, beating the later Olympic silver medallist.[2]

By the end of 1972, Decker was ranked first in the United States and fourth in the world in the 800 meters.[2] In 1973 she gained her first world record, running an indoor mile in 4:40.1. By 1974, Decker was the world record holder at 2:26.7 for 1000 meters, 2:02.4 for 880 yards, and 2:01.8 for 800 meters.

But by the end of 1974, she had developed a case of the muscle condition compartment syndrome. This resulted in a series of injuries, which meant that she did not compete in the 1976 Olympics, because of stress fractures in her lower leg. In 1978 she had an operation to try to cure compartment syndrome, which kept her out of competition for a period.[2] After recovering from surgery, she spent two seasons at the University of Colorado at Boulder on a track scholarship.[3][4] In 1980, she broke the world record for the women's mile, running a 4:17.55 to become the first woman to break the 4:20 barrier for the mile.[5]

Career peak

In 1982 Decker set six world records, at distances ranging from the mile to 10,000 meters. The following year she achieved a "Decker Double", winning both the 1500 meters and 3000 meters events at the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. In 1982, she received the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States, and the following year she won the Jesse Owens Award from USA Track and Field and Sports Illustrated magazine named her Sportsperson of the Year.

The 1984 Olympic incident

Decker was heavily favored to win a gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics, held at Los Angeles. In the 3000 meters final, Zola Budd, half a stride ahead of Decker, moved to the inside lane, crowding Decker, who collided with Budd and fell spectacularly to the curb. Decker's hip was injured and she was unable to resume the race. She was carried off the track in tears by her then boyfriend/future husband Richard Slaney. At a press conference she said that Budd was to blame for the collision. (In track races it is generally the trailing athlete's responsibility to avoid contact with the runner ahead; on the other hand, it is an accepted convention among most distance runners that the leader should be a full stride ahead before cutting in.) Track officials initially disqualified Budd for obstruction, but she was reinstated just one hour later once officials had viewed films of the race.

In the August 20, 1984 edition of Sports Illustrated the commentary was the following:

That last brutal kilometer would begin in about 300 meters, on the backstretch. Now, as Decker relaxed, gathering herself, the slight, pale, barefoot, 92-pound form of Budd again came even with her. Budd had been outside Decker's right shoulder almost from the start, and Decker knew it. They had bumped elbows at 500 meters, a result of Budd's wide-swinging arm action, and Decker had shot her a sharp look. Budd had sensed the slowing pace and didn't like it. Her training and temperament combine to make her natural race one of constantly increasing pressure. She and her coach, Pieter Labuschagne, knew that she couldn't kick with a fresh Decker or (Maricica) Puica. If she was to run her best in this Olympic final, the pace would have to go faster. So she passed Decker on the turn, just after, 1,600 meters. Decker felt her uncomfortably close. "She was cutting in on the turn, without being near passing," Decker would say. By the end of the turn, Budd appeared to have enough margin to cut in without interfering with Decker's stride, but instead she hung wide, on the outside of Lane 1, as they came into the stretch. Decker was near the rail, a yard behind Budd. Budd's teammate, Wendy Sly, had come up to third, off Budd's shoulder, and Puica was fourth, tucked in tight behind Decker, waiting. Decker sensed Budd drifting to the inside. "She tried to cut in without being, basically, ahead," Decker would say. But Decker didn't do what a seasoned middle-distance runner would have done. She didn't reach out to Budd's shoulder to let her know she was there, too close behind for Budd to move to the pole. Instead, Decker shortened her stride for a couple of steps. There was contact. Decker's right thigh grazed Budd's left foot. Budd took five more strides, slightly off balance. Trying to regain control, she swayed in slightly to the left. Decker's right foot struck Budd's left calf, low, just above the Achilles tendon. Budd's left leg shot out, and she was near falling. But Decker was falling, tripped by that leg all askew. "To keep from pushing her, I fell," she would say. She reached out after Budd, inadvertently tearing the number from her back and went headlong across the rail onto the infield.

Having divorced Ron Tabb after two years, on January 1, 1985, Decker married British discus thrower Richard Slaney. Decker returned to competition in January 1985, winning the Sunkist Invitational Indoor 2000 meters race, also in Los Angeles, and breaking the world record. Asked to apologize for her comments about Budd, she answered: "I don't feel that I have any reason to apologize. I was wronged, like anyone else in that situation."

Decker and Budd next met in July 1985, in a 3000 meters race at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in London, England. Decker won the race, and Budd finished in fourth place. After the race, the two women shook hands and made up. Decker later went on record as claiming that she was unfairly robbed of the LA 3000 meters gold medal by Budd. Decker said many years after the event "The reason I fell, some people think she tripped me deliberately. I happen to know that wasn’t the case at all. The reason I fell is because I am and was very inexperienced in running in a pack." [6]

Decker had a successful 1985 season, winning twelve mile and 3000 meters races in the European athletics calendar, which included a new world record for the women's mile of 4:16.71. She sat out the 1986 season to give birth to her only child, daughter Ashley Lynn (born May 30, 1986), but missed the 1987 season through injury, failed to medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea (though she carried the American flag at the opening ceremony) and did not qualify for the 1992 Games.


In 1996, at the age of 37, as she qualified for the 5000 meters at the Atlanta Olympics, Decker became involved in controversy. A urine test taken in June at the Olympic Trials showed a testosterone to epitestosterone (T/E) ratio greater than the allowable maximum of six to one.[7]

Decker and her lawyers contended that the T/E ratio test is unreliable for women, especially women in their late 30s or older who are taking birth control pills. In the meantime, Decker was eliminated in the heats at the Olympics.[3]

In June 1997, the IAAF banned Decker from competition. In September 1999, a USATF panel reinstated her.[8][9] The IAAF cleared her to compete but took the case to arbitration. In April, 1999, the arbitration panel ruled against her, after which the IAAF – through a retroactive ban, even though she was cleared to compete – stripped her of a silver medal she had won in the 1500 meters at the 1997 World Indoor Championships.[10]

In April 1999, Decker filed suit against both the IAAF and the U.S. Olympic Committee which administered the test, arguing that the test is flawed and cannot distinguish between androgens caused by the use of banned substances and androgens resulting from the use of birth control pills.[11] The court ruled that it had no jurisdiction, a decision which was upheld on appeal.[citation needed]

Due to its history of false positives, especially among older female athletes, the (T/E) ratio test has since been revised and laboratories now also run a carbon isotope ratio test (CIR) if the ratio is unusually high.[12]

Later life

Throughout her later career, Slaney had suffered a series of stress induced fractures. After the loss of her 1999 legal case, she agreed to have a series of 30+ orthopedic procedures. Mainly on her legs and feet, they were an attempt to enable her to run competitively in marathons. However, the surgery just increased the occurrence of the problems. She resultantly retired with her husband to a 55-acre (220,000 m2) ranch in Eugene, Oregon, where she can now jog every other day. Her other hobbies include sewing, quilting, gardening, renovating the property, and walking her three Weimaraner dogs.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Mary Slaney (Decker) at USA Track & Field Hall of Fame
  2. ^ a b c d e "Mary Decker – Little Mary". Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b MacDonald, Jamie (November 29, 1999). "Mary Decker Slaney, Track and Field". Sports Illustrated for Women ( Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  4. ^ Taylor, Susan Champli (September 29, 1986). "Mary Decker Takes a Run at Happiness with Husband Richard Slaney".,,20094636,00.html. Retrieved June 13, 2010. 
  5. ^ <a href="">Mary Decker – Repairing The Damage</a>
  6. ^ Parker-Pope, Tara (August 1, 2008). "An Olympic Blast From the Past". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  7. ^ Litsky, Frank (April 14, 1999). "TRACK AND FIELD; Slaney Suing the I.A.A.F. In Dispute Over a Drug Test". New York Times. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Athletes Unretiring: The Comeback Kids". Business Week. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Runner still feels regret over 1984 Olympics wipeout". Reuters (Tapei Times). July 25, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  10. ^ Rowbottom, Mike (April 27, 1999). "Athletics: Slaney doping ban upheld at IAAF hearing". The Independent (London). Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  11. ^ Yesalis, Charles (2000). Anabolic steroids in sport and exercise (2nd ed.). Human Kinetics. p. 367. ISBN 0880117869, ISBN 978-0-88011-786-9. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Gene Cherry (July 28, 2009). "Mary Slaney still yearns to run". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Czechoslovakia Martina Navratilova
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

Succeeded by
East Germany Heike Drechsler
Sporting positions
Preceded by
England Paula Fudge
Women's 5.000m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
South Africa Zola Budd
Preceded by
Soviet Union Tatyana Kazankina
Women's 3.000m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Soviet Union Olga Bondarenko

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужна курсовая?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mary Decker — (Mary Teresa Decker, kurzzeitig Tabb, ab 1985 Slaney; * 4. August 1958 in Flemington, New Jersey) ist eine ehemalige US amerikanische Leichtathletin, die sowohl nach der Dauer ihrer Karriere als auch nach den Erfolgen zu den besten Mittel und… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mary Decker — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Decker. Mary Decker …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mary Decker-Slaney — Mary Teresa Decker (* 4. August 1958 in Flemington, New Jersey; später Mary Tabb, ab 1985 Mary Slaney) ist eine ehemalige US amerikanische Leichtathletin, die sowohl nach der Dauer ihrer Karriere als auch nach den Erfolgen zu den besten… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mary Decker-Slaney — Mary Decker Mary Decker Discipline(s) Courses de fond Période d activité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mary Slaney — Mary Teresa Decker (* 4. August 1958 in Flemington, New Jersey; später Mary Tabb, ab 1985 Mary Slaney) ist eine ehemalige US amerikanische Leichtathletin, die sowohl nach der Dauer ihrer Karriere als auch nach den Erfolgen zu den besten… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mary Slaney — Mary Decker Mary Decker Discipline(s) Courses de fond Période d activité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Decker (surname) — Decker may refer to: Almarian Decker, an electrical engineer Brooklyn Decker, a model Carol Decker, a recording artist Daniel Decker, a composer Ed Decker, an evangelist Franz Paul Decker, a conductor George Decker, a Chief of Staff of the United …   Wikipedia

  • Decker — ist ein deutschsprachiger Familienname. Bekannte Namensträger Inhaltsverzeichnis A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mary Lou Retton — A portrait of Mary Lou Retton as a member of the President s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Personal information Full name Mary Lou Retton Country represented …   Wikipedia

  • Mary Etta Boitano — (born March 4, 1963) was a child road running star who achieved some spectacular results in the 1970s, chasing world age group marathon records in the late 60s and early 70s with her brother, Mike. Together, the two tallied well over 7 world age… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”