Athletics: Radcliffe's quirk of history
Simon Turnbull says a long trail of confusion should end today
Sunday 23 May 1999
Strictly-speaking, though, it would not be a world record. The rarely- run distance is not on the list of events recognised for "record" purposes by the sport's governing body, the International Amateur Athletic Federation. Technically, O'Sullivan's performance stands as a world best rather than a record.
By the same token of pedantry, it is factually correct to say that Budd was the last British woman to run a world track record in Britain. She was competing in her British vest of convenience, and running barefooted, when she broke Ingrid Kristiansen's 5,000m record at Crystal Palace in August 1985. She was not, however, born British and she has not been British for a decade now. She has, in fact, been British for just four of her 32 years.
The last occasion when a British-born woman broke a recognised world track record on home soil actually dates back 32 years. Joyce Smith won the 1971 women's AAA 3,000m in the fastest-ever time for that event, 9:23.4, but the women's 3,000m was not accorded world record status until 1974. It was in 1967, six years before Paula Radcliffe was born, that the feat was last officially achieved.
On 3 June that year, Anne Smith won the southern counties' mile at Chiswick in 4:37.0. En route she passed the 1500m mark in 4:17.3, also a world record. A month earlier she had clocked the first women's mile world record endorsed by the IAAF, 4:39.2. A protege of Gordon Pirie, Smith was a woman ahead of her time. It was her considerable misfortune that she never had a chance to challenge for Olympic gold at 1500m. The distance was not added to the women's programme until 1972.
A PE teacher and a member of Mitcham Athletics Club, Smith did compete in the 800m in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and set a British record, 2:04.8, in the semi-finals. In the final, though, together with the rest of the field, she was left trailing in the wake of Anne Packer's 2:01.1 world record run. She finished eighth.
Smith died of a brain haemorrhage five years ago, aged 52 and without the kind of recognition that has been bestowed upon the great Britons who have broken the men's world mile record. Due recognition, it could be argued, has also eluded the athlete who happens to be the fastest ever British-born women's miler. Kirsty Wade was only briefly British record holder after running 4:19.41 in Olso in July 1985. She lost it a month later, when Budd ran 4:17.57 in Zurich. No other British woman has broken 4:20 for the event.
Equally anomolous is the fact that Budd also holds the British 3,000m record, ahead of Yvonne Murray. Budd, Wade and Murray all competed in the 1992 Olympics, but only two of them in the red, white and blue of Great Britain. The British record holder among them represented South Africa.
Not that Wade, retired from running now at 36, feels the need for the record to be put straight - not that particular one, at least. "The fact is Zola set those records while running for Britain," she said from her home in the Outer Hebrides on Friday. "I must admit, in terms of records and whether they should or should not stand, I find it far sadder that people who have been caught taking drugs are still allowed to hold records.
"They were effectively cheating, whereas Zola was a victim of a political situation." And an exceptional runner, in any colour of vest, it has to be said.
Latest in Sport
Brazil vs Germany match report World Cup 2014: Utter humiliation for hosts as Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos help Germany hit seven past Selecao
Angel di Maria: Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal 'monitoring' Real Madrid winger
PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014: Heartbreaking photos show home fans reacting to humiliating defeat
Netherlands vs Argentina match report World Cup 2014: Messi and Robben fail to shine as Sergio Romero breaks Dutch hearts
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 2 Gingers face extinction due to climate change, scientists warn
- 4 BBC’s new Game of Thrones slayer 'The Last Kingdom' relies on Saxon appeal, creators say
- 5 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
British jihadist calls for 'flag of Islam' over Downing Street and Buckingham Palace
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
£23000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Data Analyst vacan...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am interested in speaking to Data Migr...
£200 - £450 per day: Harrington Starr: Web Services Developer Web Services, WP...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Project Manager - (Housin...