By 1980, however, Decker had recovered from her surgery and was running in top form, setting several records in the process, including an American record in the 800-meter race and world records in the 880-yard and 1,500-meter races. At the Olympic trials for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Decker qualified and was expected to medal, but never even had the chance to try. United States President Jimmy Carter authorized an American boycott of the Olympics. This political decision meant that Decker would miss her chance for an Olympic medal once again. Decker set her sights on the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and qualified for both the 1,500-meter and the 3,000-meter races—the latter being a new Olympic event. Since the two events overlapped on the schedule, she chose to run the 3,000-meter race.
Decker was in the best shape of her life and she was competing in her hometown of Los Angeles. She—and the general public—felt that this would be her time to shine. The 3,000-meter finals race was very dramatic. Although Decker led from the beginning, setting a worldrecord pace at the start, a tight pack of competitors trailed just behind her. Just past the midpoint of the race, the second-place competitor, Zola Budd, pulled slightly ahead of Decker and tried to cut in on her. In the resulting collision, both runners lost their balance, but it was Decker who ultimately fell, tumbling over the infield barrier and pulling a hip muscle in the process, knocking her out of the race that she was favored to win—and bringing the total of failed Olympic attempts to three.