Olympic fear for Radcliffe after injury 'bombshell'

Mike Rowbottom
Friday 23 May 2008 00:00
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Radcliffe, regarded as Britain's best hope for an Olympic gold, is now set on mission impossible
Radcliffe, regarded as Britain's best hope for an Olympic gold, is now set on mission impossible

Paula Radcliffe has been told by medical specialists that it will be "impossible" for her to run in this summer's Beijing Olympics following the revelation that she has been suffering unknowingly from a stress fracture of her left femur for the last month.

But the 34-year-old world marathon record holder, who described yesterday's news as "a bombshell", insists she will not let go of her ambition to earn the one honour still missing from her career and is intent on returning to training in a fortnight's time.

"When I spoke to the medical people about running in Beijing they told me they believed it would be impossible when I told them the level of training I would have to be doing to go there and be competitive," Radcliffe said after receiving information about her most recent MRI scan from UK Athletics officials. "But I don't believe that. I know it's not going to be easy, but I think it's possible. I need to take a few risks, be very smart and have a little bit of luck. Realistically, I won't be doing any racing between now and Beijing and I know realistically it's going to go down to the wire.

"It has just been a nightmare for the last three weeks. It's hard enough in Olympic year to deal with something difficult, but if you don't even know what it is, it's even harder."

Radcliffe, who finished fourth in the 10,000 metres at the Sydney Games in 2000 and had to drop out of the marathon and the 10,000m at the 2004 Athens Games after her preparations were undermined by a calf injury and a stomach upset, made it clear she has devoted years of planning to contesting gold in Beijing. "I don't feel I have yet done what I wanted to do in the Olympics and they only come around every four years," she said. "Beijing has been a major focal point – it even had a bearing on when I wanted to give birth to my daughter."

Having recovered from the toe injury which prevented her running in the London Marathon on 13 April, Radcliffe first became aware of her latest problem during a training run at her Font Romeu base in the Pyrenees on 26 April. But the exact nature of the injury, first thought to be a muscle problem but now diagnosed as a grade one atypical femoral stress fracture, has only just become clear, which has left her angry and frustrated.

"When I had the original MRI scan done, myself and my physiotherapists wanted to have a bone scan done as well, but we were told it was not advisable or necessary. Maybe I should have stamped my foot a bit harder at the time. The really frustrating thing is that you can see the problem on my first MRI scan. If we had done a bone scan at that point I could have been on crutches a month earlier."

Radcliffe said that the specialists had said that one of the possible causes of her latest problem could have been "a cancer-type of thing in the bone", but added : "They said straight away they didn't think that was likely because of the speed at which the bone is healing. I think they saw the look of horror on my face. But I wasn't expecting to hear this news. I was hoping that they would tell me my muscle tear had settled down – which it has. If they knew more earlier they should probably have informed me about it so it wouldn't have been such a bombshell."

The athlete regarded as Britain's best hope for an Olympic gold is now set on mission impossible.

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