Liliya Shobukhova not fearing return of Paula Radcliffe

Even the prospect of Paula Radcliffe’s return after pregnancy (to competitive racing next month and to the marathon this autumn) failed to knock Liliya Shobukhova out of her confident stride yesterday as she prepared for the defence of her Virgin London Marathon title on Sunday - and looked ahead to what she called her “golden chance” of Olympic marathon glory in London in 2012. “I respect Paula, but I don’t fear her,” said the Russian who has established herself as the world number one in the women’s marathon in the 17 months since Radcliffe has been out of commission and given birth to her second child.

The Briton, the fastest female marathon runner of all time, is getting ready to hit the comeback trail – preparing for the Bupa Great Manchester 10km on 16 May and an autumn marathon – with a shot at Olympic gold on home soil next year in mind. On the strength of the form Shobukhova has shown since her third–placed finish on her marathon debut in London two years ago – she has won twice in Chicago and once in London – the former world indoor 3,000m record holder with the formidable finishing speed could be the big threat to Radcliffe come London Olympic marathon next summer.

“I would love to run against her in a marathon,” Schobukhova said. “I have run against her before, in the 5,000m at the European Cup in 2004. She was number one. I was number two.”

Radcliffe won that race in Bydgoszcz, Poland, by 23 seconds, clocking 14min 29.11sec, a British record. Schobukhova’s manager, Andrei Baranov, said that his charge was “thinking about” racing against the Briton in Manchester next month but organisers of the 10km road race said yesterday that the field for the women’s race had already been finalised.

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