Athletics: Paula's pride as she fires on all cylinders

Britain's women set the pace but the men struggle to avoid relegation from the Super League

It was back in 1989 that Paula Radcliffe took receipt of her first Great Britain vest. It arrived through the post, and such was her excitement the 15-year-old put it straight on and ran round her house in it. Sixteen years later, the pride of Bedford and County Athletics Club was wearing the red, white and blue of her national strip again yesterday, with a spring of excitement back in her relentlessly quick step.

The 3,000 metres on the opening day of the European Cup First League match here in central Portugal was the first glimpse of Radcliffe in a Great Britain vest since the night she stepped off the track in Athens last August with more than eight laps of the Olympic 10,000m final still remaining. Ten months on from her double nightmare in the Greek capital, where she also failed to reach the finish line in the marathon, the former golden girl of British athletics added momentum to her competitive rehabilitation with her first win on the track since June last year.

Already back in the winning groove after her sprint-finish success in the New York Marathon last November and her tour de force of a speed-endurance exhibition in the London Marathon in April, Radcliffe provided another demonstration of her supreme class. Hitting the front after 70 metres and pulling clear from the 1,000-metre mark, she finished comfortably ahead of the nominal opposition, clocking 8min 50.18sec. Her nearest rival, Alesya Turova of Belarus, a former holder of the 3,000m steeplechase world record, was virtually half of the home straight behind.

"It was hard," Radcliffe maintained, referring to her physical state rather than the competition. "My pelvis was a bit twisted after I fell in the 1500m race I ran in Eugene two weeks ago. I felt a bit of a dip because of that but I think the race will have done me good. I'll have an ice bath and an early bed and get ready for tomorrow."

Having contributed eight valuable points towards the promotion cause of the Great Britain's women's team, Radcliffe will be back on track in the Estadio Dr Magalhaes Pessoa this afternoon, looking to double her personal tally with victory in the 5,000m. The opposition includes a woman who happens to have an Olympic gold medal in her trophy cabinet, although at 35 Fernanda Ribeiro is not the competitive animal she was when she won the 10,000m for Portugal in Atlanta in 1996. She was lapped by the metronomic Radcliffe in a 10,000m race at Gateshead last summer and, like the ailing Briton, failed to finish in the 10,000m final in Athens.

This time last year, before injury and illness conspired against her, Radcliffe was showing the glint of a Midas touch on the track. Her winning time in the wind and rain at Gateshead, 30:17.15, survived as the fastest of 2004 at 10,000m. It came a week after a similarly stunning solo demonstration as the British women slumped to relegation from the Super League section of the European Cup at Bydgoszcz in Poland, where she won the 5,000m in 14:29.11, a Commonwealth record time.

"I was probably a little further on in my training at this stage last year," Radcliffe said, keen to dampen expectation of great things today. "Everything was going well for me. It was later in the summer that injury cropped up and caused me problems.

"At the same time, I'm not worried that I'm a little bit behind this year because I took a long break after the London Marathon and I've only been back in training for four or five weeks. I need a good four- or five-week block of hard training after this weekend to get me ready for the World Championships in August."

That block of hard training, which will take place at high altitude at Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees, will determine whether Radcliffe will chase gold in the 10,000m or the marathon at the World Championships in Helsinki.

The maximum points gleaned from the 3,000m yesterday were precious enough to the Great Britain team in the revamped stadium where, once upon a time, one Jose Mourinho plied his trade as head coach for Uniao Leiria Football Club. They were equalled in value by Janine Whitlock, who has been obliged to survive at the breadline end of the international athletics scale since returning to competition after a two-year ban for a positive steroid test. The pole vaulter, who won with a clearance of 4.40m, has no kit sponsorship and no Lottery funding. She claims social security and lives at the home of her coach, Egryn Jones.

The British women were in pole position at the end of the first day, leading by eight points from Belarus with 69 points. There were also victories for Liz Fairs in the 400m hurdles (in a personal best of 56.66sec), for Donna Fraser in the 400m (52.34), and for Goldie Sayers in the javelin (61.37m), plus an impressive second place by Jemma Simpson in the 800m and a commendable third spot for Phillipa Roles in the discus.

Fraser has been plagued by injury since she finished fourth in the Olympic 400m final five years ago. The Croydon Harrier can been seen in a new advert for Range Rover; this afternoon she will have a different 4x4 in mind - the 4x400m relay, by the end of which the British women will know whether they are back on track with the élite nations.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's First World War footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during the war. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end