James Lawton: In the long run, Radcliffe cannot erase Athens flop

Paula Radcliffe, and her more fervent supporters, insist that she has been made whole again by her success in the New York and London marathons, and that what happened to her in the Athens Olympics last year is something that can be wiped from her own and the nation's memory.

Unfortunately, life doesn't quite work like this. We are obliged to live not only with the best of our past but also the worst, especially if we have become a household name and earned many millions of pounds for doing a certain thing consummately well.

Radcliffe now says she was injured in Athens and misguided to run. Well, she didn't quite say that at the time, and part of the sympathy she evoked was because of the degree of her public pain, and her incomprehension that, unlike so many obscure, and infinitely less wealthy competitors she quit, not as they say in boxing on her stool, but on an Athens pavement.

No right-minded person wants to keep on returning to that desperate time in the shadow of an ancient Greek stadium. But there is a certain gap between the meaning of what the Olympic winner Mizuki Noguchi, a 26-year-old company worker from Japan, did on that broiling night in Athens and what Radcliffe achieved on a cool, early spring day in London.

This is not to diminish Radcliffe's superb body of work over recent years. But it is a reality she would be wise to accept.

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