Rosa Mota finished her career with a personal best of 2Hr 23min , a great turnaround for a person who started her running career having to overcome the effects of asthma.
Mota emerged onto the marathon scene victorious, winning the 1982 European Marathon on her debut, beating Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway in the process.
From this moment on Mota was to make the winning of championship medals her forte. At the introduction of the marathon to the Olympic program in 1984, she came up against the strongest women’s field ever assembled over the distance. She emerged winning the bronze medal, a glorious achievement for the young runner from Portugal. In the same year, only months after the Olympics, Mota was victorious at Chicago where she again displayed her authority over Kristiansen winning in a time of 2:26.01. This added to her 1983 victory where she had lowered the [then] course record to 2:31.12, her 1984 time lowered the course record by a massive 5 minutes.
The year 1985 saw her setting her personal best at the Chicago Marathon, an event which was won by Joan Benoit of America.
From 1985 onwards Mota travelled the world and took all before her, capturing the Gold medal at both the Olympics and World Championship as well as winning the European Championships, add to this the winning of Boston, Chicago, London, Rotterdam and Tokyo. In these results you have the most all round women’s racer over the marathon distance ever.
In 1983 she won in Rotterdam and Chicago before going on to place 4th in the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki. In Helsinki, there was cause for an athlete to be in doubt regarding the taking of a banned substance, with today’s attitude this athlete would certainly have been suspended, this denied Mota the achievement of winning a Bronze medal.
In winning Chicago in 1983 she beat New Zealand’s Anne Audain catching and passing Audain over the last 800m. This was to be her 3rd victory in 4 attempts at the distance and it is hard to believe that she was only going to get better.
1984 saw her winning a bronze at the Los Angeles Olympics, the last occasion she was to lose in a Championship event.
In 1986 she won Tokyo defeating East Germany’s legendary Katrin Dorre, her winning time of 2Hr 27min 15sec was not special, however the winning of another event on another continent was significant.
In 1987, Boston was to be her 7th victory in 10 finishes, her winning time was 2Hr 25min 29sec with her winning margin being 4 minutes. She then captured the World Championship in Rome with a winning time of 2Hr 25min 17sec and a winning margin of 7minutes. A significant victory at Championship level.
In 1988, Mota was to win Boston in a time of 2Hr 24min 30sec, her winning margin was 4 seconds short of 5 minutes and her dominance of the distance was now total, her competitors were no longer in the same class as the dominant athlete. 88 was also an Olympic year and a victory in Seoul was reward for the most consistent marathon athlete in the world.
In 1989, Mota was to sustain an injury which hindered her throughout the year. After having dropped out at Osako in Japan she went to the Los Angelos marathon, where she was to lose to Zoya Ivanova of Russia. Mota still managed to achieve a second place finish, however the wisdom in her running that race was surely to effect her future.
In 1989, Mota returned to Osako to win in a time of 2Hr 27min 47sec, thus repaying the Japanese public for her failure to finish the previous year. What was significant during this event was the enormous pressures Mota felt she had been placed under by her athletic federation.
Because of Rosa Mota’s frequent racing schedule she was to run into enormous problems with the Portuguese Athletic Federation, these problems dated back to as early as 1984. The federation attempted to curtail her racing schedule, this caused major ‘blow-ups’ between the two parties and one would have to accept that this would surely have effected anyone’s performances. In 1990, with the problems cleared up between the Federation and Mota and she was able to turn her attentions to Boston. She won for a third year in a row posting a time of 2Hr 25min 23sec to beat a future winner of the event Uta Pippig of the then East Germany.