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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Britain's greatest ever athlete?
Paula Radcliffe is aiming for a world record in the Chicago Marathon
Paula Radcliffe produces one of the finest displays of distance running ever to win the Chicago Marathon in world record time.

Is she Britain's best athlete of all-time?


Radcliffe completed her annus mirabilis with a sensational run in Chicago, improving the world record by 90 seconds and leaving Catherine Ndereba trailing two minutes behind.

Radcliffe has also won the Commonwealth Games 5,000m, the European 10,000m title, the London Marathon and the World Cross Country title in a phenomenal year.

But she may now give up marathon running to concentrate on her track commitments.

Is Britain's golden girl the nation's finest?

This debate is now closed. A selection of your e-mails appear below.

Whilst Paula is a great athlete, we should be careful in calling her the greatest. One year of success is good, but it takes years of domination to be classified as the greatest.

Paula has yet to prove herself as a record-breaker where it counts - on the track in the Olympics
Andrew, UK

At the moment Paula is unbeatable, but as she is inspirational to all, it shouldn't be too long before some other runner will come along and surpass even what Paula is doing to women's distance running. Paula is a great athlete, yes. A pioneer, yes. The greatest, not yet.
James, Bristol, UK

To talk of smashing records is silly in the context of a marathon. A couple of minutes is irrelevant in a race lasting two and a half hours. Moreover, anyone who has run a marathon, and I have, knows that the huge variability between courses makes comparison and records meaningless.

Paula has yet to prove herself as a record-breaker where it counts - on the track in the Olympics. She is a very good runner, but not yet a great one. However, I hope she gets Sports Personality of the Year, just to stop some stupid footballer getting it!
Andrew, UK

She has certainly made some tremendous achievements and deserves her success. However, while the British media begin their deification programme of sportspeople at the height of their careers, we do not have to look far round the corner for media vilification when sporting "gods" behave like human beings once more.

Let us rejoice in Paula Radcliffe's success, but can you, the media, remember to be reasonable and compassionate, please, when she falls short.
H McCamley, Brunei

Paula Radcliffe is without doubt head and shoulders above all other track athletes in UK and possibly Europe. Her drive to win is fantastic and she should be held up as an example to children everywhere as a true sportsperson.

Simply the greatest runner we have ever had
Adam Greest, UK

However, I believe Daley Thompson to be the UK's greatest athlete. His consistent domination of his event and his world records left him in a field on his own.

A final word of condemnation to those who suggest that Paula's success could be drug related. Shame on you! If ever there was an example of hard work and perseverance, then this is it.
Rob, Ireland

Seeing Paula's disappointment after the Sydney games made me really feel for her; a fourth and no medal - but Paula has picked herself up and totally dominated her sport this year.

She is fantastic, and deserves the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award this year. Simply the greatest runner we have ever had.
Adam Greest, UK

Why is it that when foreigners suddenly improve so much, there are whispered hints of wrong-doing, but when it is a Brit, they can do no wrong. Paula has improved this year at least as much as some of the foreigners who were treated with such suspicion at the World Championships
Mike, UK

Paula has proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that she is one of the greatest British athletes ever produced. She is a truly inspirational figure, which her continued success in 2002 has clearly illustrated. If you needed confirmation, then her performance in the Chicago marathon was world class, and to beat the current record by over a minute is incredible. The best is yet to come.
Philip Gray, England

Best distance runner - yes! Greatest athlete - don't be silly
Dave Turner, England

Not only is Paula one of the greatest British athletes of all time, but she is poised to go down as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, women's distance runner of all time. Well done, Paula! It's been a pleasure following your career so far.

Also, don't listen to anyone who tells you not to seek gold on the track in the Olympics. Go for it! You ran what most people think was the greatest 10K ever - nearly breaking 30 minutes. No one can beat you right now. Keep it up!
Liza, USA (living in London)

Best distance runner - yes! Greatest athlete - don't be silly, you need Olympic gold and track world records!! Don't forget, Marathon courses vary in difficulty. Don't get me wrong though, I think she will eventually get both!!
Dave Turner, England

Whilst I admire her greatly for her sheer persistence and grit, I would have her a close second to Sir Steve Redgrave.
Ian, UK

I'd say that while it's impressive, let's not forget Liz McColgan. I'd say that until Paula excels on the Olympic platform, she's not the best...yet.

Paula's running inspired me, not only by her remarkable win, but also by her great exhibitions in front running. Congratulations from Sri Lanka!
Anuradha Ratnaweera, Sri Lanka

Her stand against drugs in sport makes her a very special woman indeed
Luke Boynton, England

In the words of Murray Walker, fantastic, fantastic, fantastic. We are so proud of you, well done Paula.
John Bagley, England

There are no limits to the levels she can achieve, she has put women's distance running on another plane. The only thing to mar this is the lack of support from the media.

Why an inept England performance takes precedence on the back pages to her achievement is beyond belief, but it shows that the majority of sports journalists in this country cannot see further than the end of a fotball boot - sad!
Ron Murray, Wallsend, UK

Paula Radcliffe is without doubt the greatest female distance runner Britain has ever produced and is an inspiration to us all. Her stand against drugs in sport makes her a very special woman indeed. Well done Paula!
Luke Boynton, England

Yes, Paula must be the greatest distance runner the UK has produced. In her first and second marathons, she has completely dominated two world-class fields, and destroyed the world record.

No other female athlete can cope with her pace. But please, Paula, drop the 10K in Athens 2004...there's an Olympic gold with your name on it in the marathon instead.
Steve Baggley, England

There is no contest for World Athlete of the Year and Sports Personality of the Year
Colin, UK
Paula is an inspiration to young women such as myself. Her sheer determination, combined with years of hard work, has at last paid off - SHE IS A TRUE GREAT BRIT!
Linsey, England

Britain's finest athlete, she is an inspiration to everyone. Congratulations on a fantastic year.
Nikki, UK

Only two things have reduced me to tears this year: London and Chicago. Nice guys do come first, and in some style. She's doing what Jim Peters did in the 1940s and 1950s, rewriting the way that marathons are run.
Mike, UK

Congratulations Paula! An inspiration to runners like myself, and an example to all athletes. In a world where most sports "superstars" earn more, achieve less and have bigger egos than you, you have given us all a real star to be proud of. Keep running, keep smiling!
Lloyd, England

Awesome dedication and application, there is no contest for World Athlete of the Year and Sports Personality of the Year.
Colin, UK

Is this the same Paula who was having a hard time winning at the international level a few years ago? Paula is not just the greatest, she is a legend. Her career is a testament to her will power and self belief. She is a beacon of hope to all those who are struggling to achieve success.
Krshna, UK

Watching Paula beats any film, book, or drama. I'm sure the kids of the future will study her at school. Well done!
Steve Firth, England

She's a shining example of determination and courage
Karen, UK

She is certainly the best ever female distance runner; she has done for the woman's marathon what Steve Jones did for the men's marathon. She has torn up the rule book - can she go faster - certainly, two even splits of 68 - is certainly something she is capable of and she can reduce the record to 2:16 something.

I keep reading that she is inspirational, but why isn't she inspiring the British men to some decent performances?

With the exception of Mark Steinle, I can't remember many British male runners going quicker this year. It's a sad state of affairs. This is about Paula though, so the best ever - I think so!!

Sports Personality of the Year - I hope so. No other British sports person this year has matched her achievements. And let's face it, if it hadn't been for Paula, the BBC wouldn't have shown the race.
Andy, Southend, England

Paula is an amazing inspiration to us all, regardless of nationality. She's a shining example of determination and courage and personifies the phrase 'If at first you don't succeed...' We should all learn from her example and apply it to our everyday lives. Just imagine what could be accomplished!
Karen, UK

Without a doubt Paula is our greatest ever distance runner. She is a very special lady, not just for her running but her stand against doping in sport.
David Clark, Wales

Quite simply the best female athlete we've ever produced
Ramsay, UK

Paula for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year! Those overpaid and often underperforming footballers could learn a lesson of dedication and sportsmanship from this woman. Way to go Paula!
Christine, UK

I'm so glad I was able to follow your incredible triumph on Five Live via the Internet even here in the snowy wastes of Northern Kazakhstan. What a performance!
Paul R Watson, Kazakhstan

Paula's just sensational. We've waited years for her to breakthrough - simply stunning. She didn't even look tired. Quite simply the best female athlete we've ever produced.
Ramsay, UK

These days there aren't many times when one can truly be proud to be British. Thanks Paula, you epitomise all those qualities that the world used to praise us for. No one deserves success more than you.
Mike Seymour, UK (living in Germany)

For shear perseverance in today's highly competitive world she has to be the best
Robert Foor, England

Having seen Paula miss out on the world record by nine seconds in the London marathon a few months back, I was pleased that she not only beat the world record but smashed it.

Both races were destined to be remembered by anyone lucky enough to attend them, but Paula made sure they became the stuff of legend.
Brian Taylor, England

Surely the finest... her determination, dedication and desire are amazing!
Simon Ford, England

Fantastic! I'm really pleased for Paula. She has had a fantastic year. Congratulations and let's hope she can do the same next year. She's my favourite athlete.
Helen, Wales

For shear perseverance in today's highly competitive world she has to be the best.
Robert Foor, England

All that remains for her now this year is the Sports Personality of the Year 2002!
Richard Proffitt, UK

What a joy on this rainy day to watch Paula triumph in Chicago! A spirit-lifter for sure! Many congratulations and I hope you get a well-earned rest now!
Sharon, UK

Paula, STUNNING simply STUNNING. I was glued.
Mick Cromton, England

She is simply the best - no contest.
Baz, UK

What can I say?! WOW! Without doubt the greatest piece of distance running I've ever seen! Who else, timewise, has EVER come close to Paula? Names escape me! Well done Paula! All that remains for her now this year is the Sports Personality of the Year 2002! Get voting and well done again Paula, you are a true inspiration!
Richard Proffitt, UK

What an incredible performance from an incredible person. Awesome stuff.
Baz, England

I was there when Paula won the gold at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, and that was an unbelieveable performance. However, what Paula achieved in Munich and now in Chicago is outstanding.

Her achievements will not be broken for many years to come
Sam Ashton, England

Liz McColgan was a pretty nifty runner, but long may the Queen of the Long Distances reign. Roll on Paris and then Athens!
Richard Higginson, UK

Her performances this season have been outstanding. She is a great role model for young runners, especially women, and her achievements will not be broken for many years to come.
Sam Ashton, England

You are a great source of inspiration to us, especially with your strong anti-drug statements. We were in Edmonton and were the ones that let you know about the dogs loose on the wood-chipped trail. Great trail, wasn't it?

Anyhow, terrific job with your racing this year, more impressive is your sticking to your standards despite all who would want to silence you. Stay strong, we support you all the way!
Mike & Jane Lundgren, USA

What a star! Paula deserves everything she ever wished for and more besides. Congratulations on smashing the world record and on a fantastic year of athletics.
Audrey, United Arab Emirates

See also:

07 Aug 02 | European Athletics
28 Jul 02 | Athletics
14 Apr 02 | London Marathon 2002
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