Athletics: Radcliffe loses as women take super strides

Paula Radcliffe did not have the best of afternoons here in the Estadio Dr Magalhaes Pessoa yesterday. Having won the 3,000 metres with ease on the opening day of the European Cup First League match in the shadow of Leiria Castle 24 hours previously, the British queen of women's distance running found herself treading water from the midway point of the 5,000m. Still, in battling on to take second place behind Volha Krautsova, a Belarussian, the ailing Radcliffe put promotion beyond doubt for the British women's team.

Paula Radcliffe did not have the best of afternoons here in the Estadio Dr Magalhaes Pessoa yesterday. Having won the 3,000 metres with ease on the opening day of the European Cup First League match in the shadow of Leiria Castle 24 hours previously, the British queen of women's distance running found herself treading water from the midway point of the 5,000m. Still, in battling on to take second place behind Volha Krautsova, a Belarussian, the ailing Radcliffe put promotion beyond doubt for the British women's team.

The seven points she claimed from the runners-up spot, added to the eight she gained from her victory on Saturday, made the marathon world record holder the highest individual scorer in a squad who finished the two-day competition 27 points clear of Belarus with a final haul of 134.5 points.

In the overall picture, the British women secured an instant return to the Super League of the European Cup. For Radcliffe, though, it was promotion at a cost to her preparations for the World Championships in Helsinki in August.

After her winning run in the 3,000m, the Bedfordshire woman had complained of a pelvic problem. Yesterday, after crossing the line 16 seconds behind Krautsova, in a pedestrian time of 15min 27.67sec, Radcliffe said: "I felt like I was running on one leg. I've got a niggling injury in my hamstring, caused by the alignment of my spine. I've also had some blood tests, which suggest abit of a virus.

"If this hadn't been the European Cup for Britain I wouldn't have run. I'll be going to Munich tomorrow to get my back looked at."

Radcliffe was one of five British winners on Saturday, together with Liz Fairs (400m hurdles), Donna Fraser (400m), Janine Whitlock (pole vault) and Goldie Sayers (javelin). Yesterday there were four more successes, courtesy of Shirley Webb in the hammer, Helen Clitheroe in the 1500m, Sarah Claxton in the 100m hurdles and Christine Ohuruogu, Kim Wall, Fraser and Lee McConnell in the 4x400m relay.

Leading overnight by eight points from Belarus, the Britons enjoyed a flying start - thanks to Webb, a former ballerina turned hammer thrower. Encouraged from trackside by her coach, Chris Black, the multi-talented Tynesider took victory with a third-round throw of 66.29m. It was followed by a superb 1500m by Clitheroe, who hit the front with 700m to go and pulled away with a blistering kick from 200m out.

Claxton led throughout to win the 100m hurdles in 13.02sec. Six points each from Joice Maduaka's third in the 200m and Jo Ankier's in the 3,000m steeplechase kept the British score ticking along nicely.

The comfort zone had already been reached by the time Julia Bennett took third place in the high jump (with 1.85m) and Kelly Sotherton finished runner-up in the long jump (with a best of 6.43m). The 4x400m relay was effectively a glory run at the end of the programme - Fraser, running the third leg, adding a quarter-share of the eight points to her maximum score from the individual one-lap event.

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