Athletics: Faster finish is a priority for Radcliffe

PAULA RADCLIFFE, who took silver in the 10,000 metres at the World Championships here on Thursday, has spoken of her desire to step up her sprinting skills in time for next year's Olympic Games.

In previous championships Radcliffe has earned a reputation for her weakness in the sprint, but on Thursday she led almost from start to finish and her ferocious pace throughout the 25 laps saw off all her rivals except the winner, Gete Wami, and the third-placed Tegla Loroupe, Kenya's world marathon record holder who held on by the skin of her teeth until the last lap.

The reward for the 25-year-old Radcliffe - apart from her first major track championship medal, which finally destroyed the myth that she can only perform at her best in cross-country races - was breaking her Commonwealth 10,000m record for the second time this year, finishing in a time of 30min 27.13sec.

That removed almost 14 seconds from the time she set earlier this year and it was also the fourth British record she has broken since announcing her engagement to the British international 1500m runner Gary Lough a few weeks ago.

Although Radcliffe was a class apart from the 30-strong field - with the exception of Wami and Loroupe - she lost the gold medal when the Ethiopian, the 1996 Olympic bronze medallist, produced a spectacular sprint finish with 250 metres left to win by just over two seconds.

But Radcliffe is adamant she can reverse the result in Sydney next year when the weather conditions will not be as stifling or humid as those she experienced in Seville's Olympic Stadium.

"The conditions were incredibly hot and I could have blasted the first half even quicker but I might have blown up," Radcliffe said.

"My plan was to drop people as early as possible. The last two kilometres were hard but I knew I was hurting them from the way they were breathing.

"I've been told that 26 to 28 is the best age for 10,000m runners. In Sydney I plan to blast away even harder and the climate there should be much more advantageous for doing that. At least I will go there with a silver medal and not carry always finishing fourth or fifth in championship races with me.

"The main thing with the Olympics is that no one can say I can win only cross-country medals but not on the track. Tonight I proved them wrong."

There are still doubts as to whether Radcliffe will ever have the ability to get the better of the opposition in a world-class field.

But the BBC commentator Brendan Foster said: "Paula ran a tremendous race and after Liz McColgan's victory in the 1991 Championships, which I said at the time was the best performance by any British athlete including the likes of Gordon Pirie, Dave Bedford and myself, this ranked second."

Foster was particularly impressed by the 3:03 split Radcliffe inserted late in the race between the seventh and eighth kilometres. The former Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist said: "Paula now knows how she can win races. She knows she has got to get away and one day, if she perseveres with the tactics she employed last night, even the likes of Wami will drop off."

Next Friday, Radcliffe is scheduled to run in the Brussels Golden League meeting, followed by the international match against the United States in Glasgow the next day. She will also run her first half-marathon in the Bupa Great North Run on 10 October.

She denied that this could lead to her stepping up to the marathon distance. "I'm not thinking about it yet. At the moment I don't think I'm patient enough."

BRITAIN'S MEDAL WINNERS

GOLD

110m hurdles: Colin Jackson

SILVER

Decathlon: Dean Macey

Heptathlon: Denise Lewis 10,000m: Paula Radcliffe

BRONZE

Men's 100m: Dwain Chambers

Men's Triple Jump: Jonathan Edwards

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