NUMBER 9: Mary Decker Slaney


Mary Decker is pretty much the opposite of Lasse Viren. While he saved his best for the Olympics, she never won an Olympic medal. Her Olympic history went something like this:

1972 – age restricted
1976 – stress fracture (did not compete)
1980 – U.S. Boycott
1984 – the Zola Budd “incident”
1988 – did not medal
1992 – did not qualify
1996 – did not qualify and T/E controversy

However, outside of the Olympics, she was brilliant. Mary is the only athlete ever to hold every American record from 800 meters to 10,000 meters. In fact, she still holds the records for 1500m, the mile and 3000m. Over her career, Mary set 36 national records and 17 official and unofficial world records at various distances.

Her PRs are:
800 m – 1:56.90
1500 m – 3:57.12
mile – 4:16.71
3000 m – 8:25.83
5000 m – 15:06.53
10,000 m – 31:35.30

Late in her career, she was suspended after a urine test from Olympic Trials showed a T/E ratio greater than the allowable maximum. She adamantly fought the positive test, and the testing method has since been revised.

As many know, there is a new teenager named Mary that is drawing a lot of attention in the sport. When asked about this by ESPN, Decker Slaney said, “She sounds like a pretty neat kid. I think it’s time we have someone come along that’s ready to make the next leap for Americans. I’m actually excited for this new Mary, because the old Mary fell short.”

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