The 1984 Olympics are the first ones of which I remember anything at all, though what we saw was limited. We used to joke that the UK coverage was all way too centered on UK athletes, which meant we barely saw anything where they weren’t truly contending, which meant we barely saw anything, period. Har, har. (Seriously, though, little did we know how bad and myopic the NBC Olympics coverage was going to be one day.) But one thing we absolutely did see was Mary Decker running the 3000 meters, tripping, falling, crashing, and weeping.
My 7-year old mind didn’t absorb the details, though. I remembered Zola Budd, already noteworthy because she ran barefoot, and because she is South African but controversially obtained British citizenship to compete because the Apartheid government of her natal country was banned. I remember the bump, the fall. But because of the bare feet and the tripping and the crying, my mind coded it that Zola Budd went on to win, and in fact she didn’t even medal; she placed seventh. Those three medalists — Maricica Puică of Romania, Wendy Sly of the UK, and Lynn Williams of Canada — are lost to history, a bit, which must be emotional for them too. And this was the first time women ran a 3000-meter race in the Olympics, and in fact, four of the 12 runners ended up falling at various times. And in fact, though Mary Decker was the world champ and the favorite, Puică outran Mary in their respective heats and looked pretty darn fresh by the end, so who knows what would have happened.
But! We also had Carl Lewis and Daley Thompson and Evelyn Ashford and MORE.