On New Year's Day Decker and Slaney were married in a simple 20-minute ceremony at the First United Methodist Church in Eugene. Slaney walked his bride down the aisle—Decker's father having dropped out of her life when she was 12—and lent a casual feeling to the affair, greeting guests as they arrived at the church, and checking the focus of a videotape camera before the ceremony began. 'Richard has a calming effect on me," says Decker: her new husband also scolds her for her birdlike eating habits and keeps her from her self-destructive habit of overtraining.
Decker's mail, like Slaney, helped to assure and uplift her "We've received about 4,000 letters since the Olympics, and of those I'd say maybe 15 have been negative—and all of them unsigned," says Brown. "Kids have been sending her ribbons and medals, and writing, 'We think you should have won a gold medal. Here's a medal that I won. Please keep it until you win yours.' " One Portland, Ore. man sent Decker his Purple Heart with a note that said, "You have earned it and very much more.... I am giving [this] to you for the way you subconsciously dove out of the way toward the infield in that collision.... [Yours was] the most honorable type of injury."
Decker's competitive streak showed most clearly in a succession of excellent workouts in December and early January. "She has the hunger from never having peaked last year," said Brown before the Sunkist. "She might have taken this year lightly if she'd done well at the Olympics and in Europe. But there's a part of her that still needs to be satisfied."
With the crack of the starting gun on Friday night. Decker issued, in the bold strokes of her running, a graceful and articulate message of redemption. She moved quickly to the front of the six-woman field, a long stride ahead of Wysocki. "I've never run much indoors." Wysocki had said earlier. "I just hope I can stay close." For 600 yards, she did. Straining, spikes clicking, she chased Decker around and around the small (160-yard), banked, plywood track. The crowd noise was building.
Then, suddenly, Decker broke free. Looking more slender and delicate than ever, she cruised past 1,000 meters in 2:46.8, four seconds under world-record pace. "It all seemed too easy," she would say later. It all looked too easy, too. If Decker hadn't lost an indoor race since 1976, neither had she run with any more ease and fluidity. She passed 1,500 meters in 4:12.5 and then a mile (4:31.0), utterly destroying Podkopayeva's record pace. Wysocki was by now nearly half a lap behind. The crowd was no longer playing favorites. It was screaming itself hoarse.
On the last of the 13� laps, Decker clenched her teeth, her first show of effort. "I probably had too much left in me," she would say later, but when she hit the finish line few could believe what she had done: 5:34.52, more than eight seconds faster than the old record in this infrequently contested event. Wysocki finished 90 yards back in second, not at all unhappy with her 5:45.93.
"Richard requested a wedding present from me tonight," said Decker. "'He asked me to run well, feel good and set a world record. Not because he wanted it, but because he knew I wanted it."
As Decker warmed down beneath the stands, dozens of children chased after her with pens and programs. She would eventually sit down at a card table and spend an hour signing for almost all of them. The rebuilding of an image had begun. Or as Ted McLaughlin promoter of the Dallas Times-Herald meet, put it, "If you run well enough, people will forget about everything else."