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  Sunday, 8 December, 2002, 22:17 GMT
Radcliffe revels in success
Paula Radcliffe celebrates winning European 10,000m gold in Munich
Radcliffe celebrates winning European 10,000m gold

Paula Radcliffe's crowning as BBC Sports Personality of the Year is a fitting finale to what has been a staggering year.

  Paula Radcliffe
Born: 17 Dec 1973, Cheshire
Coaches: Alex and Rosemary Stanton
Marital status: Married to Gary Lough
Lives: Leicester and Fort Romeu, France
In the space of 12 months, Radcliffe transformed herself from also-ran to how-did-she-run-that?

Her achievements barely seem believable.

Radcliffe became new marathon world record holder, European 10,000m champion, Commonwealth 5,000m champion, winner of the London Marathon at her first attempt, world cross country champion - the list goes on.

This is a woman who was determined to break the old British stereotype of a plucky loser, the nice person who finishes just out of the medals.

She was fed up of of jokes about her nodding head and had enough of glorious failures - and she proved herself in brilliant fashion.

Off the track, Radcliffe is as pleasant an individual as you could hope to meet, popular with both the national media and her fellow athletes.

She is intelligent enough to be fluent in both French and Italian and translate the IAAF magazine into English to keep up her language skills.

But her relaxed manner hides a steely determination which has made her as ruthless a sportswoman as Britain has produced.

Born 28 years ago to a brewery executive father and a headmistress mother, Radcliffe started running aged seven, accompanying her father for the odd mile as he trained for marathons.

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

In her first national race, as a schoolgirl, she finished 299th. So how did she become the world's best distance runner?

In the main, through unbelievable hard work and a unshakeable belief that it would come right if she kept at it.

Paula Radcliffe smiles
Radcliffe's dedication is legendary
Radcliffe, unlike some of her rivals, is clean. But her high-profile stance against drugs has won her as many enemies as admirers.

All year there have been sniping comments that her new-found success must have been down to doping.

The jibes came despite Radcliffe asking to be tested before and after every race and actually being tested more often than any other British athlete.

Her husband and manager Gary Lough also acts as her minder, for she admits there is a serious chance someone could try to doctor her water bottles.

Next year she will attempt to add the world 10,000m gold to her trophy cabinet, and after that comes the really big one - a likely joust at the Olympic marathon title in Greece.

But for now, she can sit back and allow herself a small smile of satisfaction at a wonderful 2002.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
See Radcliffe triumph at the European Champs

In-depth section on the big BBC awards

Radcliffe triumphs

Awards

Winners in profile

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