On my run today, I was thinking about Zola Budd. The October 2009 edition of Runners World had a fantastic article on Zola Budd, and I loved the snapshot of her life. As a runner (albeit a slow one!) I can only have an inkling of the difficulties and frustrations she must have gone through, but as a fellow South African I know only too well the complexities of her situation. Zola Budd was confronted with a dilemma that many faced in South Africa: is it possible to compete in 'normal' sport whilst living in an abnormal society? Since the policies of apartheid left so many without the freedom of choice, the politics of the anti-apartheid movement looked to the freedom of the many rather than to that of the individual. It was an issue that divided South Africa.
It was unfair on Zola, and she was treated appallingly, but she was seen as a star who had the opportunity to shine. For those who thought they would never be afforded that opportunity, it was anathema - and she was crucified. It is hard to analyze her situation 'purely as a runner', because it was so deeply situated in the political unrest in 1984. It was never just about her talent and how good she was, the issue was always about how could she participate in 'normal' sport while South Africans were living under a state of emergency.
Whilst this article is very good, it could never capture the heartache that she must have gone through. I was profoundly touched by the article, and I remember all the furore very well indeed. Like so many before her, she was caught up in a situation that she could never win. But this is a different time and space. Go Zola Go, this is your time to be a rock and roll star.