Radcliffe unable to finish race once again

It ended with just under 10 laps remaining. Stepping out of the 10,000 metres final which had occupied her every waking thought since her traumatic failure to finish Sunday's marathon, Paula Radcliffe was no broken figure yesterday; merely a beaten one.

It ended with just under 10 laps remaining. Stepping out of the 10,000 metres final which had occupied her every waking thought since her traumatic failure to finish Sunday's marathon, Paula Radcliffe was no broken figure yesterday; merely a beaten one.

Her gamble to seek redemption at these Olympic Games had not come off, although there had been honour in taking it. Now she stood patiently on the infield, hands on her hips, awaiting a chance to escape the Olympic ring of the track.

She said: "I thought I could get back out there. I thought I could keep running even pace, but my quads just tightened. I felt it coming on and coming on. Mentally for me the best thing was to get back out there to try and get over Sunday's disappointment.

"My legs were too beaten up from the marathon. This has totally crushed me emotionally. I'm going to have to give my body time to get over it. But I'd rather have been running tonight than sitting in front of a television wondering what it would have been like to be here."

The title Radcliffe had vainly sought, however, went not to the Ethiopians who had so often before thwarted her ambition on the track, but an athlete registering China's second startling victory of the night, Huina Zing, in a time of 30min 24.37sec.

Earlier in the evening, China's Xiang Liu had lived up to his status as event favourite in the 110m hurdles title by winning in 12.91sec, equalling Colin Jackson's world record set at the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart.

Radcliffe's decision yesterday morning to contest the 10,000m had been half-predicted by those who wondered what other reason she might have for remaining at the scene of her distress four miles from the Panathinaiko Stadium.

Last night's race took place in temperatures mercifully cooler than those of over 100 degrees in which she had set out on the course from Marathon to Athens, but drinks were still available to the runners at intervals on the back straight.

Radcliffe looked somehow unlike herself as she set out with the leading group in the early laps. The flush that had come to her face after five miles of the marathon was entirely absent. Instead, she looked ashen.

Gamely, with 18 of the 25 laps still to go, she made a go of trying to break away. She made five metres, 10 metres, 15 ­ but that was the extent of her effort.

Inexorably, the colourful file of runners caught her up and re-attached themselves to her shoulder. With 17 laps remaining, Lorna Kiplagat, the Netherlands' naturalised Kenyan, took over, and from then on it was a steady backward procession for the 30-year-old Bedford runner.

For a while, she remained, just, in the leading group of 10 which included three Ethiopians, three Kenyans, two Chinese and Kiplagat. But, with 11 laps to go, she was dropping away, a force that, in truth, had been spent before the start of the race. She, unlike her rivals, had already run 22 gruelling miles.

Four years ago in Sydney, Radcliffe had wept over fourth place after leading the 10,000m for 20 of the 25 laps, only to see Derartu Tulu and Gete Wami, of Ethiopia, and Portugal's Fernando Ribeiro process past her to claim the medals.

It was more excruciating than the previous year's World Championships, where she had to settle for silver after Wami ghosted past her near the end. A year later, she was publicly berated by her husband and manager, Gary Lough, for failing to carry out her race plan.

The years since have been kinder. Although she had already broken through at the world cross country championships, where she took a win a few months before Edmonton, 2002 was an annus mirabilis.

A second world cross country title in Dublin was followed by successive victories in the Commonwealth 5,000m and European 10,000m.

On the roads she had made a monumental marathon debut in London, winning in 2hr 18min 56sec, the fastest marathon debut by four minutes, and a world record for a woman-only race. She returned to London the following spring to reduce it still further to 2hr 15min 25sec.

Other than a couple of second places in minor events ­ the Ekiden Relay and the Puerto Rico 10k ­ everything appeared to be on course for Radcliffe.

But it was too good to last. In April she underwent a hernia operation which had contributed to nagging injuries in her legs. And although she returned to make two outstanding runs on the track, the brutal heat of Athens awaited.

In the 110m hurdles, Xiang Liu had promised after the semi-final that he had been conserving his energies for the final, and he was as good as his word as he annihilated a field including America's Terence Trammell, who took silver in 13.18, and the defending Olympic champion Anier Garcia, of Cuba, who took bronze in 13.20. As the exuberant new champion crossed the line with arms outraised, it was an exhilarating, and faintly scary, glimpse of the experience the 2008 Beijing Olympics are likely to offer. These have been a very good Games for China; the next ones promise even more.

Britain's beleaguered sprinters took a positive step forward here yesterday by reaching today's 100m relay final ­ but not before a miscued baton change on the last leg had raised unhappy memories of the last Olympics, where a faulty baton change saw the relay team go out in the first round.

A misunderstanding between third-leg runner Marlon Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis when Britain were placed second behind a US team anchored by former Olympic champion Maurice Greene almost put paid to a challenge that has looked increasingly fragile over recent weeks as one team member after another has suffered either illness or injury.

The 21-year-old Birmingham runner appeared uncertain as Devonish approached, looking round anxiously and stuttering briefly to a halt before setting off again, with baton in hand, to record a time of 38.53sec, a season's best for the British.

The US team underlined their status as favourites for sprint relay gold, brought home in 38.02sec by Maurice Greene who, albeit that he only managed a bronze medal in the individual 100m final, appeared to have all the swagger of old.

Both Britain's 400m relay teams also reached today's finals, the men taking first place in their semi-final, anchored by Matt Elias. The 400m women, too, got through as fastest losers with a season's best of 3min 26.99sec.

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