Relief as Radcliffe remains on course for gold medal

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The Independent Online

Max Jones, the performance director at UK Athletics, yesterday backed Paula Radcliffe to win this Sunday's Olympic marathon.

Max Jones, the performance director at UK Athletics, yesterday backed Paula Radcliffe to win this Sunday's Olympic marathon.

Dismissing speculation that Britain's only genuine contender for an athletics title at these Games was carrying an injury, Jones maintained: "She'll win the gold."

Radcliffe arrived in the Olympic Village on Monday, three days ahead of schedule, from her most recent training base in Spain, where she has been acclimatising herself to the kind of heat she will experience here.

There were reports that, en route, she had called into the Munich clinic of Dr Hans Müller Wolfhart, which she visited last month for a check-up after a calf problem had caused her to change her mind about competing in the Norwich Union London Grand Prix on 30 July.

Jones said she had come to Athens earlier than originally planned so that she could inspect the marathon course, which has undergone some minor alterations since she last visited the city.

Asked if she was 100 per cent fit, Jones responded: "I'm happy she's in the village and that we don't have to worry. I've seen her, and she's all right. She's wrapping herself in cotton wool at the moment, tapering down from her training. She just went for a run."

The fact that Jones did not quite confirm Radcliffe's total fitness suggests she may have a slight, niggling problem. But her presence in the Olympic Village would seem to confirm that she believes she is fit to compete.

Although Radcliffe travels with her own medical back-up in the form of her specialist physio, Gerard Hartmann, she can call on two team doctors in the village, Bryan English and Bruce Hamilton, if required.

The world marathon record-holder also has the option of switching to compete in the 10,000 metres if she feels she is not in ideal shape to run 26 miles and 385 yards.

After arriving in Athens, Radcliffe said: "Everything has gone really well in training, particularly the quality work, which has gone very successfully and is completed. Now it's just a case of doing some easy running and light strides."

Radcliffe has a single room in the village in the same block as other athletes such as Great Britain's defending heptathlon champion, Denise Lewis, and the British Olympic 800m bronze medallist, Kelly Holmes.

Injuries of various severity are part of the territory for any athletes who push themselves to the limits of their ability, as Radcliffe has in the past couple of years. On the eve of the London Marathon in April she revealed she had undergone a hernia operation to rectify problems which had been affecting her running.

Her last competitive outing at Gateshead on 27 June saw her battling against windy conditions which frustrated her hopes of dipping under the half-hour mark in the 10,000m, in a race in which she lapped every other runner.

Her intention was to run at the Crystal Palace meeting at the end of July, but a week before the event was due to take place she contacted the promoters, FastTrack, to say she was not going to take part.

Since then, she has returned to training at her base in Font Romeu, in the French Pyrenees, and latterly in Spain.

Radcliffe has remained relatively isolated since her last track outing, and cancelled a media telephone conference that was due to take place on Monday, having been rearranged from the previous week.

Her agent, Sian Masterton, has denied that she has a calf injury and added that she had cancelled her media call in order to concentrate on preparing for the Games.