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Last Updated: Friday, 27 August, 2004, 22:37 GMT 23:37 UK
Fans share Paula's pain
By Andrew Fraser
BBC Sport in Athens

Paula Radcliffe
Paula Radcliffe admitted she was "emotionally crushed" after finally throwing in the towel on her quest for Olympic gold.

And the hundreds of British fans who had made their way to the Olympic stadium to see her try to make amends for her marathon failure felt pretty much the same way.

For the second time in six days we had come to will her on to glory.

But this time it was more in hope than expectation.

Chants of 'Paula, Paula' went up from the crowd as soon as Radcliffe walked out on to the track to warm up for the 10,000m final.

And we scrutinised her body language for any telltale signs about how much her marathon ordeal had taken out of her.

All seemed well for the first few laps.

Ripples of Union Flags accompanied Radcliffe around the stadium as she took up position in the lead group.

There were hundreds of Brits in the stadium screaming their heads off
Rebecca Morley from Yorkshire
But when the Ethiopian trio of Ejagayehu Dibaba, Derartu Tulu and Werknesh Kidane breezed past her about 10 minutes in and turned up the heat, the reality started to sink in.

The sense of deja vu was complete when Radcliffe started to lag behind, slowed up and stepped off the track.

There were no tears this time, but once again her race had ended with a trip to see a doctor deep in the bowels of the stadium.

And this time her Olympic dream was finally extinguished.

Dejected fans in the crowd were united in disappointment, but had differing opinions about whether Radcliffe should have kept going to the bitter end.

"I'm pleased she tried and I'm also pleased she dropped out when she dropped off the pace," said Andrew Edge, a British lawyer who lives in Frankfurt in Germany.

"If she hadn't given it a crack she'd always have wondered whether she was capable of it. She found out she wasn't.

"She had nothing to lose and I was really pleased she tried. It's a shame, but it's better than not trying.

"She's not human like you or me, she's got such amazing levels of stamina. I came her thinking there was a possibility she could win, but I also knew it was an outside chance."

Richard Pugh, wife Anne and children Katie and Owen, had hoped for one last moment to savour before heading off to the airport for a 4am flight back home to England.

It belittles the other competitors when somebody pulls out
Richard Pugh from Trowbridge
"She was coming here to win and that's probably why she pulled out," said the software project manager from Trowbridge in West Wiltshire.

"In some ways I wished she had kept going because I think it belittles the other competitors when somebody pulls out.

"For her to come out took a lot of guts, but for her to pull out again, she must have been in a very bad way.

"Others managed to finish the marathon. She's a world-class athlete and she pulled out of it early enough so she could run the 10km.

"But pulling out of both of them is very disappointing."

Sarah Papadimos, who lives on the island of Spetses with her Greek husband, said: "We were at the marathon too.

"Although we understand she was tired, she could have crawled into that stadium and we would have waited until midnight the next day for her.

"But it was nice for us to be here to see her attempt it. You can only give your best."

Her friend Rebecca Morley, from Yorkshire, added: "There were hundreds of Brits in the stadium screaming their heads off.

"I had only just got my voice back from seeing Kelly Holmes win gold.

"But whether Paula finished, won or came last, I don't care. I saw Paula Radcliffe run at the Olympics. That will do me."

Links to more Athletics stories


Paula's party falls flat
22 Aug 04  |  Athletics
Marathon agony for Radcliffe
22 Aug 04  |  Athletics


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