Athletics: Radcliffe to end two-year absence from British track

Paula Radcliffe will make her first appearance on a British track in two years when she races at the Grand Prix in Gateshead on 27 June. The 30-year-old marathon world record holder, whose last track race on home soil saw her take the Commonwealth 5,000 metres title in Manchester, will seek an Olympic qualifying time in the 10,000m.

Paula Radcliffe will make her first appearance on a British track in two years when she races at the Grand Prix in Gateshead on 27 June. The 30-year-old marathon world record holder, whose last track race on home soil saw her take the Commonwealth 5,000 metres title in Manchester, will seek an Olympic qualifying time in the 10,000m.

"My heart is set on the marathon, but I want to keep my options open," she said yesterday. "I fully intend being selected for both events at the Olympics."

Radcliffe, who secured her first major 10,000m title at the European Championships in Munich shortly after her Commonwealth victory, needs to break 31min 45sec, well outside her personal best of 30:01.09. But she is likely to face a competitive race given that Ethiopian sources suggest Gete Wami, who beat her to the world 10,000m title in Seville five years ago, has also been signed up to run. Wami's presence has not been officially confirmed.

Radcliffe, who revealed on the eve of last month's London marathon ­ where she chose not to defend her title ­ that she had required a hernia operation, is back in full training at her high-altitude base in the Pyrenees.

"Gateshead will be the first race I do in the UK," she added. "There is a chance I may race somewhere else before that but I haven't decided about that." Her outing in the North-East will represent the first 10,000m she has run in Britain, but she will have positive memories of the Gateshead track given that she won there over 3,000m in 2001. "It's been a long time since I raced on the track in the UK and I have really missed it," she said. "The standard of the British Grand Prix is always very high, so Gateshead will be a good test and an important stepping stone for the Olympics."

Radcliffe was due to run at Crystal Palace last summer, but pulled out because of the injury problems which eventually forced her to miss the World Championships in Paris.

She has always maintained that she wanted to have the possibility of running the marathon or the 10,000m in Athens, and has not ruled out attempting a double if the marathon, which precedes the track event by five days, goes according to plan.

Dave Moorcroft, chief executive of UK Athletics, welcomed the announcement of Radcliffe's domestic fixture. "Paula is without a doubt one of the most outstanding athletes in the world and she always receives a fantastic reaction when she competes in Great Britain," he said. "I'm sure the Gateshead public will be thrilled to see her."

Others signed up for the Grand Prix include the world 100m champion, Kim Collins, the Olympic 100m champion, Marion Jones, and the Olympic heptathlon champion, Denise Lewis.

* Hezekiel Sepeng, the 800m silver medalist in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics has been added to South Africa's provisional Olympic squad after being left out last week for breaching eligibility rules. Sepeng, 29, had been fined and suspended for three years for failing to compete in his specialty event in two of a series of track meets in South Africa. But he made a personal plea to South Africa's track manager, Banele Sindane, claiming he believed he had fulfilled his obligations by running in two 1,500m races in South Africa.

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