Athletics: Radcliffe prepares in isolation for double date in Helsinki

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The Independent Online

He believes the marathon world record holder is entitled to spend the final week of her preparations for the championships away from the British team's holding camp in Turku.

Radcliffe, 31, will race in the 10,000m final on Saturday and intends to run in the marathon eight days later. She will not fly into Finland until Thursday, but Collins stressed: "We've got athletes here at different stages of development. Paula's stage of development is such that she needs to do what she needs to do.

"It would be extremely foolish to turn round and say, 'By the way, while you're trying to win medals in the 10,000m and the marathon, could you just come down and be an inspiration to these guys as well?' "

Opinion is divided on whether Radcliffe - who so traumatically failed to finish the marathon and 10,000m events at the Olympics in Athens last year - is wise to follow her present course. Among the "no" group are the former world mile and 1500m record holder Steve Cram, Grete Waitz, who won the first women's world marathon title in 1983, and the former world 10,000m champion Liz McColgan, who has said - with characteristic directness - that Radcliffe would be "stupid to do both".

Those in favour of her schedule include the former Olympic 10,000m champions Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia and Lasse Viren of Finland.

Collins is adamant that Radcliffe knows what is best for herself at such a crucial time. "I'm certain that's been considered and thought through and through, then put into the plan," he said.

Christian Malcolm, whose performances this season have established him as Europe's top 200m performer, requires treatment on a pelvic injury that will delay his arrival for the World Championships.

Malcolm, the winner of the European Cup event in 20.15sec this season, will seek medical help in Cardiff this week before flying out to Finland at the weekend.

Other absentees from practice this week at the British camp in Turku, 90 minutes' drive from Helsinki, are the team captain Darren Campbell, who is still recovering from tonsillitis, and Chris Lambert, who must prove his fitness after having a hernia operation three weeks ago.

Collins nevertheless believes that the squad is looking "pretty damn good".

"The absences have been unfortunate because all the athletes in the relay teams were committed to coming here," he said.

"In the circumstances it was unavoidable and we have done practices without them. We've had three of the strike four from Athens out on the track and I know relay coaches Mike McFarlane and Clarence Callender have done an excellent job. We've done as much as we possibly could and we'll be looking at the possible insertion of one athlete into what is already a well-drilled outfit."

The circumstances could also benefit Craig Pickering, the 18-year-old whose performance in winning the European Junior 100m in Kaunas, Lithuania, last month was rewarded with a call-up to the senior squad.

Jan Zelezny, three times a world and Olympic javelin champion, has announced that he will miss these World Championships for the first time since 1987 because of an Achilles tendon injury. The news comes a day after Asafa Powell, the world 100m record holder, confirmed his absence because of injury.