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ATHLETICS; Radcliffe fails in record bid

IT WAS just like old times at Loughborough yesterday: David Coleman was behind the mike, and there was a British distance runner making an attempt to break a world track record.

But it was a reminder of more recent, less happy times in British athletics, that Paula Radcliffe's game effort to break the world best for two miles eventually fell short, the buffeting breeze on a cool afternoon proving too much for her as she finished in 9min 31.82sec, more than 12sec outside the record set by Sonia O'Sullivan in Cork last year. At least Radcliffe had the consolation of a pounds 3,000 bonus for breaking the more modest British record of 9:36.85. It was also the fourth fastest run ever.

The Loughborough meeting, a traditional early season affair between the university's students and select teams from England, British juniors, Scotland and British students, was significant above all else for marking the return of the BBC to exclusive live television coverage of domestic athletics for the first time in 15 years, part of a pounds 17m five-year contract that has saved the sport from penury.

So Radcliffe's record attempt was the least the BBC might have expected for their investment. The former Loughborough student, who trains on the same track most of the year, did not stint in her effort.

Paced through the first five laps by Ayelech Worku, a former world junior champion from Ethiopia, by the time Radcliffe was left on her own - the length of the home straight clear of the next runner - she was already six seconds outside the pace required for the world best. But since she won bronze in the world cross-country championships in Belfast in March, Radcliffe has managed to break a record each time she has raced - with a British best for 10,000m and a world best for five miles on the road last month.

Radcliffe was not the only one to benefit from the BBC's cash injection yesterday. Lorraine Shaw collected a pounds 1,200 bonus after breaking her own British record in the final round of the hammer, with 66.37 metres, and there was a string of other promising performances.