Zola Budd Pieterse has been running ever since she can remember. She could beat her older nephews at running games and knew she was quick. Zola started training seriously at the age of 14 and earned her first Springbok colours at the age of 15.
At that time South Africa was banned from competing internationally and because of her grandfather being English, she could obtain a British passport and run for Britain. Zola competed in the 1984 Olympic Games and people remember this race because it was the race that Mary Decker Slaney fell. For the next two years she competed on the international running circuit and broke World, European and Commonwealth records on the track. Zola also won the World Cross Country title twice.
Zola returned to South Africa in 1988 due to political pressure and started a family in 1995. She has three kids, Lisa(18), and twins Azelle and Michael(16). In between running Zola studied computer programming at the Technikon Free State, received her Honors in Psychology from UNISA and a Masters in Pastoral Psychology from the University of the Free State.
Zola has continued running and competing in South Africa throughout the years and in 1993 came fourth in the World Cross Country Championship. She is a distributor of Newton Running shoes in South Africa and give Running Form Clinics and talks throughout South Africa.
Zola has also given various motivational talks in the USA to different running clubs and events. She loves to share not only her life story but also her love of running. Zola believes her biggest achievement is the fact that at the age of 48 she became the oldest woman to ever win a gold medal at the Comrades. Her life has been a proverbial roller coaster ride of ups and downs, winning and losing, personal loss and perseverance and she would like to share this and inspire other people not to give up on life but to keep finding challenges and being passionate about their lives.
Her story is one of betrayal and tragedy. She rues the day she broke the world record by 6 minutes at the age of 17 running barefoot. It made her an international overnight sensation. She became the whipping horse for apartheid and she didn’t even know who Nelson Mandela was. Zola is now a very balanced human being with wonderful kids. She goes by the name of Zola Pieterse and lives in Myrtle Beach in South Carolina – her kids of 16 and 18 only ever found out that she was famous about 5 years ago!