Paula Radcliffe made herself favourite for the Commonwealth Games 5,000 metres gold medal with an encouraging run at last night's Golden League meeting here.
Running her first race since her London Marathon victory in April, Radcliffe proved, despite suffering several weeks of illness, she was back at her very best when finishing second to track rival Gabriela Szabo and smashing her Commonwealth 3,000m record.
The Romanian again got the better of Radcliffe, but only just when winning in a European record time of 8min 21.42sec. That bettered the mark of 8:21.64 set by Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan at Crystal Palace in 1994.
Radcliffe, inches behind the Olympic 5,000m title holder, broke the Commonwealth record of 8:26.97 she achieved last year in Rome. Determined and dogging Szabo to the bitter end, she finished with a time of 8:22.20.
Helen Pattinson ran the best 1500m race of her career and, in a thrilling sprint finish, was narrowly denied victory by Aleysa Tulova, who beat Regina Jacobs by the narrowest possible margin. The Belarusian won in 4:01.01, only 0.01sec clear of the American. Pattinson knocked over three seconds off her previous best she set two years ago with 4:01.10.
Now she will make the short journey from her Preston home for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester believing she has a genuine shot at a medal.
Mozambique's Maria Mutola, in an equally exciting race over 800m, was beaten by Cuba's Zulia Calatayud who held her off by 0.07sec when winning in 1:56.09.
Jonathan Edwards, who lost in Rome last Friday, again suffered defeat. Christian Olsson, the young Swede who took silver behind the world record holder in last year's World Championships, won with a best jump of 17.63m – four centimetres ahead of the Briton.
A touch of food poisoning saw Chris Rawlinson finish last in the 400m.
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