Track star Zola Budd says she would have stayed in South Africa if she had foreseen the troubles she has faced since moving to Britain four years ago.
In an interview published in Wednesday's Times of London, Budd, who this week could be barred from competition because of contacts with her homeland, also said she made a mistake running for Britain in the 1984 Olympics so soon after acquiring a British passport."To a certain extent, I can understand why . . . folks criticize me and also why I'm a target for various political groups," she said.
At times, Budd said, she had considered giving up track "because of the pressures."
But she also said that her move to Britain was legitimate.
"I know my passport was not one of mere convenience," she said. "I pay taxes, rates (real estate taxes) and so on, and I contribute as much as I can to my (track) club."
At 17 when she was one of the world's top middle-distance runners, Budd moved to Britain in early 1984 and was quickly granted a British passport that allowed her to compete for her new home in the Los Angeles Olympics.
"Looking back, there are certain things I wish had happened differently," Budd said in the interview. "For instance, I think going straight into the Olympics in '84 was a mistake for all sorts of reasons. I had no time to integrate myself and i'm sure also that the speed of it all may have antagonized some people. . . .
"If I'd known what was in store for me at 17, I wouldn't have come in the first place."
South African athletes are barred from the Olympic Games and most other international sports events because of the country's apartheid policies. Critics said the move was made only so she could compete for Olympic gold and have pointed to her repeated trips back to South Africa as proof.
"I can't see why people expect me to disown my past or my background," she said. "I can't just forsake it because it's obviously a large part of me.
"If the real issue is the legitimacy of my British passport, then quite simply if it weren't legal then I wouldn't have it."