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Last Updated: Friday, 27 August, 2004, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Stricken Paula keeps on running
Paula Radcliffe looks perplexed after pulling out of the 10,000m
Paula Radcliffe promised she would not do herself any lasting damage by competing in the Olympic 10,000m final, five days after her marathon disaster.

But rather than banish the memories of that tearful exit on an Athens highway, Britain's distance queen found only more agony waiting for on the track.

There were plenty of people who warned the 30-year-old against attempting such an improbable salvage mission.

But Radcliffe's bravery has brought her triumph and despair in equal measure.

Four years after an excrutiating fourth place in Sydney, she arrived at the Games having seemingly buried her reputation as a plucky loser.

But after admitting events of the past week have "totally crushed her emotionally", Radcliffe now faces a battle to recover from the "lowest of the low" points.

Then again, this is an athlete who finished 299th in her first national race as a schoolgirl.

So how did she become the world's best distance runner, the woman to whom Britain entrusted their hopes of a gold medal in Athens?

PAULA'S ROLL OF HONOUR
Born: 17 Dec 1973, Cheshire
Lives: Loughborough and Fort Romeu, France
Honours:
World Championships: 1999 silver in 10,000m
London Marathon: 2002, 2003 champion
Chicago Marathon: 2002 champion
European Championships: 2002 gold in 10,000m
Commonwealth Games: 2002 gold in 10,000m
World Cross Country (8km): 2001, 2002 champion
European Cross Country: 1998, 2003 champion
World Half-marathon: 2000, 2001, 2003 champion
The daughter of a brewery executive father and a headmistress mother, Radcliffe started running aged seven - accompanying her father as he trained for marathons.

She joined Bedford Athletics Club aged nine and met the man who is still her coach, Alex Stanton.

After that first setback as a schoolgirl, Radcliffe dedicated herself to hard work, convinced her ambitions would be realised if she kept at it.

She reached her first Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta, and finished fifth in the 5,000m.

But it was three years later at the World Championships in Seville that her front-running style earned international recognition.

Having led for most of the race, Radcliffe was passed on the last lap of the 10,000m and had to settle for the silver medal.

It became a recurring theme as her tactics again endeared her to the crowd in the 10,000m Olympic final in Sydney, only for three African runners to push her into fourth.

'World beater'

The same scenario at the World Championships the following year in Edmonton marked a turning point for Radcliffe.

Remarkably, in less than 12 months, 'Plucky Paula' became 'Paula the world beater'.

The capture of half-marathon and cross country world titles persuaded Radcliffe to devote her considerable energies to the marathon.

She entered the 2002 London Marathon and won it at the first attempt in two hours, 18 minutes and 56 seconds - just nine seconds outside the world record.

I will definitely be back. It is the only way I know how - to get out there and run
Paula Radcliffe
The European Championships in Munich witnessed a stunning Radcliffe display as she ran the second quickest 10,000m of all-time.

And then Chicago bowed to Radcliffe in October, when she clocked 2:17:18 for the marathon.

The BBC Sports Personality of the Year and the IAAF's World Athlete of the Year awards followed.

She decimated the 10km road race record in early 2003, and then defended her London Marathon title in awesome fashion.

This time she finished almost a mile clear of the field and her time of 2:15:25 shaved one minute and 53 seconds off the previous world best.

From that point on her focus had been on the Olympic marathon, for which she started a red-hot favourite.

But the punishing route in 100-degree temperatures proved Radcliffe was mortal after all, as she pulled up physically and mentally shot at the 22-mile mark.

She spoke of "redeeming" herself in the 10,000m, in which she had ran 26 seconds faster than anyone else this year.

In hindsight, that looks like folly, but Radcliffe has not reached the peak of her profession by ducking a challenge.

It is to be hoped the redemption she seeks - on the road or on the track - is just around the next corner.





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