Paula Radcliffe had a marathon gold medal on her mind last night but it was not the one that will be on the line here in the Olympiastadion on Sunday morning. In reaching the decision not to take her place in the World Championship race on the final day of competition in the German capital, the marathon world record holder was keeping her sights firmly on the long-term goal of a winning home run around the streets of London in the Olympic Games of 2012.
"I want the marathons that I do between now and 2012 to be 100 per cent right, to be back bouncing with confidence going into the races," Radcliffe said yesterday, after announcing her withdrawal from the field for the 26.2-mile event. "You can't just go in and give it a shot with the marathon."
No marathon runner knows that more than the Briton. Last summer she took a long shot at Olympic gold in Beijing with just two weeks of proper training behind her after suffering a stress fracture of the femur. Ill-prepared for the challenge, she finished the course in a limping, tearful 23rd.
Twelve months on, Radcliffe is taking no risks. Only last Sunday she returned to competitive action, following a foot operation in March, winning the New York City half-marathon in 69min 45sec. After four days of training with the British team in Berlin, she reached the conclusion that she was not ready to put her reputation – as the world record holder, the 2005 world champion and the winner of eight of the 10 marathons she has entered – at stake.
"With the hindsight of what I went through last year, you can't go into a marathon less than 100 per cent right and get away with it," Radcliffe said. "It's not about wrapping things in cotton wool ahead of 2012 but I've been lucky to have a long career and I want it to be longer. Now that the foot isn't giving me problems any more, I want to make sure the races I do are good and strong."
Undoubtedly, the strength of the British medal challenge in Berlin will be weakened by the absence of Radcliffe from Sunday's race. With three days of the World Championships still remaining, the team are three fifths of the way to the medal target set by the head coach of UK Athletics Charles Van Commenee, thanks to golds from Sheffield athlete Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon and Phillips Idowu in the triple jump and bronze from Jenny Meadows in the 800m.
The prospects of at least two more British medals brightened significantly at the start of the evening programme yesterday. Greg Rutherford emerged from a season of injury setbacks in sparkling form in the qualifying round of the men's long jump. The 22-year-old from Milton Keynes jumped 8.30m with his first effort – a 1cm improvement on the British record previously held by his training partner Chris Tomlinson. Will Sharman also showed medal winning potential in the semi-final of the 110m hurdles, winning in a personal best time of 13.38sec as Olympic champion Dayron Robles of Cuba crashed out.Reuse content