The teenager had produced some astonishing performances in her native South Africa, but the country's apartheid regime meant it was excluded from the Olympics.
But, armed with the revelation Budd had a British grandfather, the Daily Mail led a campaign to bring her to these shores.
The barefoot Budd entered the 3000m where she came up against American darling Mary Decker. Just over halfway through the final, the pair clashed legs and Decker fell to the ground, injured.
Budd continued but, as the partisan L.A. crowd booed her, fell back to seventh - she later claimed she slowed deliberately to avoid causing an even greater controversy.
The race was won by Romania's Maricica Puica, who was actually the fastest athlete in the field on form.
In the wake of Decker's fall, a fevered blame game commenced. Though the US media rounded on Budd, accusing her of swerving in front of their runner, Decker later absolved her erstwhile rival of responsibility.
Budd soon returned to South Africa, for whom she competed with limited success after the end of apartheid.