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Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK
Olympics lessons 'won Paula gold'
By Tom Fordyce

Paula Radcliffe shows her gold medal
Paula Radcliffe won world marathon gold because she learned the lessons of her Olympic heartbreak, according to a British marathon great of the past.

Mike Gratton, winner of the 1983 London Marathon, said: "Athens was a monster - the odds were always against her, and then she made some tactical errors.

"This time, she got her tactics spot on. She held the lead at a pace that the others couldn't stick with.

"In Athens, she took the lead but was never hurting her rivals."

Radcliffe, 31, claimed Britain's only gold of the World Championships on Sunday with a dominant front-running performance.

There had been question marks over both her form and preparation after she could finish only ninth in the 10,000m in Helsinki, but Radcliffe smashed the championship record as she won in two hours 20 minutes and 57 seconds.

The emphatic victory - her first global championship gold - finally laid to rest the nightmare of last summer's Olympics, where she failed to finish despite starting as world record holder and clear favourite.

"The biggest difference was the weight of expectation," Gratton told BBC Sport.

"In Helsinki, there was still pressure, but not to the same extent as in Athens.

"She went into the race at the Worlds expecting to win it, whereas in Athens she began with doubts in her mind. She was worried about her injury problems.

Paula Radcliffe in tears at the Athens Olympics
Radcliffe finished her last championship marathon in tears

"In Athens, the course and temperature made it so much harder for a fair-haired girl from northern Europe. In Helsinki, the weather was perfect for her."

Neither Olympic champion Mizuki Noguchi nor bronze medallist Deena Kastor were competing in Helsinki.

The only woman to put sustained pressure on Radcliffe was the woman who took silver behind Noguchi in Athens, Catherine Ndereba.

Was the absence of the other two medallists key to Radcliffe's success this time around?

"I don't think Kastor would have been a factor," says Gratton.

"The way she ran in Athens was to come through from way back late on.

"If she had been in Helsinki and attempted to stick with Paula's pace, she would have dropped back like the others did. Paula didn't slow enough in the last 10 kilometres to give anyone the chance.

"But Noguchi? She would have made a difference. She's an aggressive, attacking runner, and she knows Paula doesn't like running with others ahead of her.

"If you're in the lead, even if only by a minute, you find yourself thinking, 'Hang on - I've only got to keep this going to win this'.

"Had Paula got away in Athens, her confidence might have built as the race went on.

"But she didn't get away from Noguchi, and she couldn't run in her own rhythm, and as an athlete that makes you worry."

Out of their depth

Gratton believes that Radcliffe's fast front-running tactics were the perfect way to subdue her remaining rivals.

"What worried me was that the other top runners might think she was vulnerable because she was so far back in the 10,000m," he says.

"The thinking would have been, 'If we stick with her, she may crumble again'. But the pace she was running at soon told on the others.

"All the way through, she was running dead on 2 hours 20 mins pace. The only other athlete who could be comfortable with that was Ndereba.

"The rest were in that strange psychological place where they knew they could go with it for a while but would soon be out of their depth.

"The ones who tried to go with it - Tomescu-Dita and Hiroyama - both paid the penalty."

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