I felt numb, says dejected Paula

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The Independent Online

Paula Radcliffe admits she is still unsure why her bid for Olympic gold in the marathon in Athens went wrong yesterday.

Paula Radcliffe admits she is still unsure why her bid for Olympic gold in the marathon in Athens went wrong yesterday.

Radcliffe's race ended in tears when she pulled up with three miles of the race remaining.

Britain's star athlete, who had been favourite to win gold, said she did not feel unduly affected by the conditions but did not feel well enough to go on.

Radcliffe, who broke down in tears in an emotional interview with the BBC, said: "Physically, I feel fine. My legs maybe felt they hit the ground harder than they did but physically I am okay. Mentally I am trying to pick up the pieces.

"It's really difficult - I am still waiting for the results of tests they did. I set off not too bad. I didn't feel conditions were excessively bothering me heatwise but after 15-20km I felt nothing in my legs.

"I felt I could regroup but in the end I was struggling to stay on the road and I felt numb."

Radcliffe said that physically today she felt OK.

"I'm mentally trying to pick up the pieces now to find out what happened."

She said that after 15 to 20km she felt like there was nothing in her legs, managed to re-group, but at the end, "I was struggling to stay on the road, I was just drifting to the side the whole time."

She added: "I'm desperately trying to find a reason to explain what happened."

Emotionally she said: "It was something I had worked for for so long, and it's been the only thing I was aiming for, and for it be such a bad day - a little bit of a bad day I could have maybe got away with."

She said people deserved an explanation - but she did not have one for herself at the moment.

It was too early to say whether she might go for the 10,000 metres.

"My plan was to come here to run the marathon, to win the marathon, and then to decide after that, it's not a decision I'm going to make in the next 24 hours," Radcliffe said.

Radcliffe's agony was watched by more than 10 million TV viewers in Britain - and hundreds of devastated fans at the finishing line in the Panathinaiko Stadium.

The 30-year-old world record holder slumped to the ground, succumbing to the searing heat and hills of Athens, and missing out for a third time on an Olympic medal.

She had endured more than 22 gruelling miles before her body could take no more.

After a faltering re-start she finally gave in, defeated and in tears, a crumpled heap at the roadside, taken away by ambulance to a medical post then on to the stadium.

She was expected to enter as the new Olympic champion, but instead was smuggled in to avoid the press, her husband Gary Lough and parents by her side.

A spokesman for the British Olympic Association described her condition as "emotionally and physically drained".

Around 90 minutes after the race ended she left, gingerly walking to a waiting minibus, clutching her husband's hand, looking pale and drawn.

She said only one word to waiting reporters about how she felt: "devastated".

It is still not known if she will run in Friday's 10,000m race in a final bid for an elusive Olympic medal.