Mary Decker

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Mary Slaney
Personal information
Birth name Mary Teresa Decker
Nationality American
Born (1958-08-04) August 4, 1958 (age 55)
Lebanon Township, New Jersey
Sport
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 Teresa Slaney (née Decker, born August 4, 1958) 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] She has held the American record in the 1500 meters, mile, 2000 meters and 3000 meters since the early 1980s.

Biography[edit]

Mary Decker was born in the Bunnvale section of Lebanon Township, New Jersey. A decade later her family moved to Garden Grove in 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]

Career[edit]

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 Indoor record holder with 2:02.4 for 880 yards, and 2:01.8 for 800 meters.[3]

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.[4][5] In 1979, she became the second American woman (the first was Francie Larrieu) to break the 4:30 mile in American record time.[6] Decker was the first woman to break the 4:20 barrier for the mile, in 1980, when she ran 4:17.55. However this time was never ratified by the IAAF.[7] Her 4:18.08 in 1982, to break the official record of 4:20.89 by the Soviet Lyudmila Veselkova, was ratified. She did not compete for an Olympic medal due to the U.S.-led 1980 Summer Olympics boycott. In 1981, she married fellow American distance runner, Ron Tabb. The couple divorced in 1983.[8]

Career peak[edit]

In 1982 Decker set six world records, at distances ranging from the mile run to 10,000 meters. She received the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States,

The following year she achieved the "Double Decker,"[9] winning both the 1500 meters and 3000 meters events at the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. Her history of relatively easy wins in the United States left her tactical abilities suspect, she was not used to running in close order because so few athletes could keep up with her, a situation particularly the Soviet runners hoped to take advantage of. Her wins against the Soviet World Record holders proved a redemption of her competitive guile. After her double win 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[edit]

Decker was heavily favored to win a gold medal in the 3000 meters run at the 1984 Summer Olympics, held at Los Angeles. In the final, Zola Budd, representing Great Britain, had been running barefoot side by side with Decker for 3 laps and moved ahead. In an attempt to put pressure on Budd, Decker remained close by in a crowded space. Decker stood on Budd, then shortly after, collided with the barefoot runner and fell spectacularly to the curb. As a result, Mary Decker did not finish the race, which was won by Maricica Puica of Romania (Budd finished seventh). Decker was carried off the track at the end in tears by her boyfriend (and later, husband), British discus thrower Richard Slaney. At a press conference she said that Budd was to blame for the collision. While in track races it is generally the trailing athlete's responsibility to avoid contact with the runner ahead, it is also an accepted convention among most distance runners that the leader 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. Despite being behind Budd, Decker's claim that Budd had bumped into her leg was supported by a number of U.S. sports journalists and Budd was hounded constantly in the press as a result, receiving a number of death threats. The claim was never accepted by the director of the games or the IAAF.

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, but 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."[10]

Decker had a successful 1985 season, winning twelve mile and 3000 meters races in the European athletics calendar, which included a new official world record for the women's mile of 4:16.71 in Zurich (Natalya Artyomova's 4:15.8 in 1984, not being ratified by the IAAF). Since that race in 1985, her time has only been bettered on two occasions.[11]

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 due to injury. She was the American flag carrier during the opening ceremony of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea; she failed to medal. She did not qualify for the 1992 Games.

Doping controversy[edit]

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.[12] At the time of the positive test Decker was being coached by Alberto Salazar.[13]

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.[4]

In June 1997, the IAAF banned Decker from competition. In September 1999, a USATF panel reinstated her.[14][15] 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.[16]

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.[17] The court ruled that it had no jurisdiction, a decision which was upheld on appeal.[citation needed]

The (T/E) ratio test has seen its standards tightened to a 4:1 ratio, instead of the previous 6:1 ratio, and laboratories now also run a carbon isotope ratio test (CIR) if the ratio is unusually high.[18]

Later life[edit]

Throughout her later career, Decker 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. As a result, she 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.[19]

ElliptiGO Racing[edit]

In 2012, Decker's injuries lead her to start riding the ElliptiGO elliptical bicycle, saying that it gave her the same feeling as her hard running workouts used to.[20] In September 2012, she competed in the ElliptiGO World Championships race up Palomar Mountain in San Diego County, coming in second place.[21] The following year, Decker took 6 minutes off her previous time and placed third at the 2013 ElliptiGO World Championships.[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mary Slaney (Decker) at USA Track & Field Hall of Fame
  2. ^ a b c d e "Mary Decker – Little Mary". sports.jrank.org. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  3. ^ CNN http://www.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1093598/2/index.htm |url= missing title (help). 
  4. ^ a b MacDonald, Jamie (November 29, 1999). "Mary Decker Slaney, Track and Field". Sports Illustrated for Women (CNNsi.com). Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  5. ^ Taylor, Susan Champli (September 29, 1986). "Mary Decker Takes a Run at Happiness with Husband Richard Slaney". Retrieved June 13, 2010. 
  6. ^ http://bringbackthemile.com.oniric.us/history/pdf?pdf=USWomenSub430List.pdf
  7. ^ http://sports.jrank.org/pages/1123/Decker-Mary-Repairing-Damage.html Mary Decker – Repairing The Damage]
  8. ^ http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20094636,00.html
  9. ^ "Covers". CNN. 
  10. ^ Parker-Pope, Tara (August 1, 2008). "An Olympic Blast From the Past". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  11. ^ http://www.iaaf.org/records/toplists/middlelong/one-mile/outdoor/women/senior
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ LONGMAN, JERE (May 1, 1996). "TRACK AND FIELD; Slaney Tries New Approach to Olympic Quest". New York Times. Retrieved August 14, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Athletes Unretiring: The Comeback Kids". Business Week. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Runner still feels regret over 1984 Olympics wipeout". Reuters (Tapei Times). July 25, 2009. Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  16. ^ Rowbottom, Mike (April 27, 1999). "Athletics: Slaney doping ban upheld at IAAF hearing". The Independent (London). Retrieved December 19, 2009. 
  17. ^ Yesalis, Charles (2000). Anabolic steroids in sport and exercise (2nd ed.). Human Kinetics. p. 367. ISBN 978-0-88011-786-9. 
  18. ^ http://www.rsc.org/Education/EiC/issues/2010Mar/FiveRingsGoodFourRingsBad.asp
  19. ^ Gene Cherry (July 28, 2009). "Mary Slaney still yearns to run". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  20. ^ Amby Burfoot (October 18, 2012). "Pioneer Women: Doris Heritage And Mary Slaney". Runner's World. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  21. ^ Caitlyn Pilkington (September 10, 2012). "Rusty Snow Wins ElliptiGO World Championship". competitor.com. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 
  22. ^ Caitlyn Pilkington (October 13, 2013). "Sara Slattery Shatters Course Record At ElliptiGO World Championships". competitor.com. Retrieved February 11, 2014. 

External links[edit]

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

1985
Succeeded by
East Germany Heike Drechsler
Sporting positions
Preceded by
England Paula Fudge
Women's 5.000m Best Year Performance
1982
Succeeded by
South Africa Zola Budd
Preceded by
Soviet Union Tatyana Kazankina
Women's 3.000m Best Year Performance
1985
Succeeded by
Soviet Union Olga Bondarenko