Former Olympic runner Zola Budd talks about her Olympic experience

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - While we don't have any winter Olympic athletes in our area – the Myrtle Beach area is home to at least two athletes who have competed in the Summer Games.

Amber Campbell has been to the Olympics twice – the 2008 games in Beijing and most recently the 2012 London games. The CCU alum competes in the hammer throw.

Zola Budd also competed in two Olympics – the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the 1992 Games in Barcelona. And while Zola was there to run, the buzz around her had more to do with the controversy surrounding her participation than with her performance.

WMBF Sports Director Joe Murano had the chance to sit down with Zola to learn more about how that moment influenced her Olympic experience.

Joe Murano:  You were born and raised in South Africa. You trained there until a tabloid pushed for you to get British citizenship.

Zola Budd: South Africa wasn't allowed to compete internationally because of the political situation, and the British tabloid actually discovered my grandfather was British, and because of that my dad could get a passport and I could get British citizenship.

It was tough. It was really tough running for Britain because of the political situation at that time and all the demonstrations and people swearing and spitting at you at all the races, and so it was quite tough running for Britain.

Murano: You competed in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. You had an Olympic experience different than most. Everyone knew entering you were a very gifted runner, but it's what happened in that 3,000-meter race. You made contact with American runner Mary Decker. That caused her to fall, she can't finish, and you take seventh.

Budd: From my point of view, I think you look at the whole season and what happened before … I was being trained continuously for more than a year. I was mentally and physically so tired by the time I got to the Olympics, so that happening at that time in the Games was almost telling me, 'This is the final straw. This one has broke the camel's back.' So yes, it was tough, especially because it had happened between me and Mary.

Murano: The Olympics are going on right now.

Budd: I love the Winter Olympics, because the sports are so different from what I'm used to growing up in South Africa. I just wish that one day they can have cross-country running as a Winter Olympic sport. It would open the Winter Olympics to countries that don't really see snow, like South Africa. And we'll have a few Kenyan champions as well in the winter Olympics. I think that would be fun.

Murano: Take us into the mindset of an Olympian, especially those that are only competing in one event.

Budd: I think what makes the Olympics so difficult is that it's so outcome-based, performance-driven, so the athletes feel pressure not just from the people around them, but from themselves as well, because today is the day at this time I have to do it. For the guys who've succeeded, it's great, but I think the Olympics, if you can look beyond that and just look at the Olympics as an experience, that's what I got from it. I wasn't the winner of the Olympics, but that's what I took home from the Olympics, is just the experience of being there.

Murano: Your own daughter runs competitively and she's a very good athlete. You have a family of runners. If they're going to try and strive for Olympic contention, what advice do you have for aspiring young athletes?

Budd: I think aspiring young athletes, the most important thing is trying to make the Olympics part of one of your goals, not the only goal in your life.

Murano: Are you able to enjoy that experience as it's happening?

Budd: I don't think you can really enjoy it while it's happening. But maybe like you say, reflective afterwards. But sometimes you're lucky enough to have a great race at the Olympics and everything just happens and falls into place. But I know being at the Olympics, coming back from the Olympics, there's always a lot of people really disappointed and I think that's part of the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games is special. It's for you to be able to participate in the Olympic Games should be enough. People just put too much pressure on winning and getting the gold medal.

Zola Budd stills runs; right now she's doing between 70 and 80 miles per week to prepare for a 33-mile Ultra Marathon in South Africa.

Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved.