Injury and illness rob Melbourne Games of Radcliffe and Thorpe

The Melbourne Commonwealth Games, which begin next week, have lost two of their grandstand names, Paula Radcliffe and Ian Thorpe.

England's Radcliffe, the favourite for the women's 10,000 metres, withdrew after picking up a foot injury at her training base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Australia's Thorpe, whose prodigious swimming career started at 17 with four gold medals at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, has pulled out after a chest infection undermined his preparations.

Radcliffe's husband and manager, Gary Lough, stressed that the bruised foot she sustained stepping on a rock while running at the high altitude base would not prevent her defending her London Marathon title on 23 April. The 32-year-old, who holds the marathon world record and is expected to receive appearance money in London of at least £500,000, has experienced problems every time she has attempted a track session .

She has decided not to risk her fitness in trying to add a Commonwealth 10,000m title to the 5,000m version she won in Manchester four years ago.

"Paula hit a rock when out training and developed a bruised foot and it is taking a long time to settle down," Lough said. "In particular, it has been causing problems on the track, constantly flaring up, and she cannot do proper flat-out training sessions.

"It reared up again at the end of January and we feel it would be stupid, too much of an unnecessary risk, to compete in Melbourne. But the problem is not affecting her marathon preparations," he stressed.

It is the third time injury or illness has forced Radcliffe to miss the Games. At the beginning of her career she missed the 1994 meeting in Victoria, Canada, to recover from a stress fracture in her foot. Four years later, a virus picked up before the European Championships in Budapest, where she underperformed, forced her to pull out of the Kuala Lumpur Games.

Thorpe told a news conference in Sydney that he had succumbed to a mystery illness that had plagued him for almost a month.

The five-time Olympic gold medallist is a superstar in Australia and his announcement was broadcast live on national television. "It was difficult coming to terms with not being able to compete, but in the end it was the only decision I could come to," Thorpe said.

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