Athletics: Radcliffe set for golden exchange

After two silvers, Britain's premier cross-country runner is stronger than ever.

YOU ALMOST hate to ask it of her, but what other question is there for Paula Radcliffe? And how else could it be put? "Paula, you have the silver medal at the last two World Cross-Country Championships, can you win a gold this year?"

It is an easier question to ask than it is to answer. Radcliffe, who carries home hopes on her shoulders as she takes to the course at Barnett Demesne in Belfast today, is understandably cautious in her response.

"There are always five or six runners in with a chance at these championships," she said. "And you can expect another two or three to have an outstanding run. But I am going to give it all I've got. I know what I have to do. I have to stay calm."

This time round she will not have to face the Ethiopian who out-sprinted her in the last 50 metres in Turin two years ago, Derartu Tulu, or Ireland's winner of last year, Sonia O'Sullivan, who is pregnant. But, as the 25- year-old Bedford runner rightly says, there remain a number of other rivals well capable of rising to the challenge on a meandering 8km course, including Annemari Sandell, of Finland, Kenya's Jackline Maranga and Ethiopia's 1996 world champion Gete Wami, who has followed Radcliffe home for bronze in the last two years and leads this year's IAAF Cross Challenge series.

Five months after chasing O'Sullivan home in Marrakesh last March, Radcliffe endured a traumatic disappointment at the European Championships in Budapest, where she slipped from first to fifth place in the 10,000m final, drained by what was later diagnosed as a virus infection.

She was forced to miss the Commonwealth Games and told to take six weeks' complete rest. It was a measure of how ill she felt that she never once felt like protesting about her enforced inactivity. "Normally, I'm raring to go after three weeks' off, but when I got back to training in October I still felt very lethargic and heavy," she said.

In the aftermath of her Budapest defeat, there were those who gravely shook their head and pointed critically to the unremitting regime of altitude training she had undertaken in preparation at Font Romeu, in the Pyrenees, where she has a flat.

But Radcliffe rejects the charge that she over-trained. "It was nothing to do with the training," she said. "I showed my training diary to our team doctor and physiologist and they couldn't see that I had done anything wrong. I was just unlucky in picking up a virus.

"It annoyed me that some people were pointing the finger at my coach, Alex Stanton. I have prepared in exactly the same way this year and I am in at least as good a condition as I was for Turin and Marrakesh. If anything, I am stronger. I'd be lying if I said what happened in Budapest was totally forgotten. But it's something I've got to put to the back of my mind."

Radcliffe drew some kind of a line under her disappointment on 13 December, when she secured her first senior international title by winning the European Cross-Country Championships in Ferrara, Italy. "I needed to win that, and it meant a lot to me that I went and did it," she said. "I knew I was taking a risk, because I was still only 80 per cent fit after the summer. But I'm glad I did it. So many people had been saying I couldn't win anything." Radcliffe disproved that back in 1992, when she battled through the snowy wastes of Boston to win the world junior cross-country title. But her senior career until Ferrara had been dotted with honourable defeats.

After returning from a month's work at altitude in Albuquerque, Radcliffe joined members of the British team last week at the Italian training camp in Terrena.

Her warm-weather preparation became hotter than expected when she and her boyfriend, Gary Lough, the international middle distance runner who was brought up just north of Belfast, were apprehended by military police after straying inside an army base.

"We thought we'd identified the perfect route and were running around the edge of the base," she said. "But we came alongside some water and eventually we had to cross to the other side along a pipe. It turned out we were two miles inside their security cordon. The police would not believe we were just running even though it was shorts and t-shirt weather and it was pretty obvious we weren't concealing cameras. Eventually, they made us run back the way we had come."

Radcliffe won't be getting into any more hot water today. In order to stimulate the blood supply to her legs, she will take a cold bath before setting out for gold. So, cool and calm. Can she finally collect it?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Arts and Entertainment
Stanley Tucci as DCI Eugene Morton, Sophie Grabol as Hildur Odegard and Christopher Eccleston as Professor Charlie Stoddart in 'Fortitude'
tvGrace Dent: Still, it's compelling and cinematically sublime
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

Arts and Entertainment
EastEnders actor Danny Dyer has been rejected from Game of Thrones three times
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Frank Turner performing at 93 Feet East
musicReview: 93 Feet East, London
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: Regional Gas Installation Manager - South East England

£36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Regional Gas Installation Manager is r...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service and Breakdown Engineer - South East

£29000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Service and Brea...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee