Athletics: Radcliffe on tenterhooks over battle for fitness

UK Athletics will reveal today whether Paula Radcliffe has won her fitness battle to compete at the World Championships in Paris.

No one apart from Radcliffe will know for sure until the UK Athletics performance director, Max Jones, announces the final additions to the British team. Even at the weekend Radcliffe, based at her altitude training base of Font Romeau in the French Pyrenees, was said not to have even told her husband and manager, Gary Lough, whether she would compete in her fifth World Championships.

The news that she has had speed sessions on the track indicates that she has recovered from a leg injury and a bout of bronchitis. Radcliffe, 29, knows that nothing but complete fitness will permit any hope of winning a world track title to add to her 1999 silver medal at 10,000 metres.

The opposition in Paris is going to be stiff, particularly the Ethiopian threat of the defending champion, Derartu Tulu, and Berhane Adere, and this year's world cross country champion, Worknesh Kidane. Jones has indicated that the selectors will be happy to name Radcliffe for both the 10,000m and 5,000m and let her make up her mind the statutory 48 hours before they begin.

The GB team will be the smallest ever fielded, due to the high qualifying standards demanded by the IAAF. With 37 athletes already picked, Jones and colleagues spent the weekend deciding who to add.

The three criteria are whether they are medal hopefuls, possible finalists or needing experience at the Worlds. Only Radcliffe falls into the first category, but the 800m runners Jo Fenn and Charlotte Moore are likely to be included.

In last year's Commonwealth final the pair broke two minutes for the distance, and Fenn did it three times indoors during the winter before a pre-season injury ruined her season. But she looked her old self in Berlin on Sunday and, having achieved the 'A' standard in Manchester, can expect to be picked. Moore, running 2min 2.21sec, a marginal 0.30sec quicker than Fenn at the IAAF Golden League meeting, should see the 18-year-old included.

Jones was hoping to take a squad of 50 to Paris. But since the inaugural announcement a fortnight ago, only the 800m runner James McIlroy and the 110m hurdler Rob Newton have bettered the 'A' standard. Newton looks certain for the team while McIlroy could lose out. Having acknowledged the potential of Ricky Soos, 20, who only has the 'B' standard, it would be a major surprise if they de-selected the AAA 800m champion who beat McIlroy in the trials.

Julie Hollman, who owns the heptathlon standard from 2002, is a lot fitter than when helping the GB team win last month's European Cup of Combined Events First League. The Peterborough athlete can expect a call to jointhe Olympic champion Denise Lewis.

No British woman has the 100m 'A' standard, so trial winner Joice Maduaka, holding the 'B' qualifier, looks the obvious bet. The Olympic and world 5,000m finalist Jo Pavey deferred selection two weeks ago to decide what distance she feels will produce the best result.

The discus thrower Shelley Newman has plugged on all summer, hoping she might be picked, though only a 'B' standard performer. Victory against her arch-rival Philippa Roles on Saturday in Cwmbran should see Newman make the side.

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