World marathon record-holder is out of London 2012 through injury
Paula Radcliffe has spoken of her heartbreak at having to withdraw from what looked certain to be her last shot at Olympic glory.
The BOA announced that the world marathon record-holder, who has been suffering with a degenerative foot injury, underwent a fitness test on Sunday which showed she would not able to compete to a reasonable level. She will be replaced by Freya Murray, pending approval from the IOC.
For Radcliffe, who had been due to become only the third British athlete to compete in five Olympics after Tessa Sanderson and Chris Maddocks, it is another cruel blow after injury hit her hopes in Athens and Beijing. She finished fifth in the 5000m at the 1996 Games and one place higher in the 10,000m in 2000.
“From the day when it was announced that London had won the bid, taking part and performing well in the London Olympic Games has been a major goal in my life,” said the 38-year-old.
“The goal of a fifth Olympics in my home country, what better? The chance to make amends to myself for bitter disappointments at the previous two Olympics. Through a lot of tough times it has kept me fighting, motivated and focused. That is why it hurts so much to finally admit to myself that it isn’t going to happen.
“My sport is a beautiful sport, it gives so much fun and enjoyment, I believe it helps me to be a better person, and I have been very fortunate to experience some great success and have so many beautiful and happy memories. However, the downside is that it can break your heart and spirit many times over when your body is simply unable to match what your heart and brain want it to do. Sadly mine is not a career or a hobby where mind over matter can work when your body is hurt, nor where giving less than your best each day can ever work.
“I made more commitment than ever in preparation this year, two months away from the three most important people in my life. However, every single athlete out there makes the same commitments, puts their all into their preparation, and sadly I am not the only one to suffer heartbreak in trying to go after our goals.
“The most important thing is, as I always believe, to know that you did all you could in going after those dreams. It is hard to know that had the Olympics been six weeks earlier I could have gone out there and run confidently knowing that I was in the best shape I had been in for a while, but I am by no means the first to experience something like this. No one tells us in advance where the limits of our own bodies lie, and pushing these limits is the only way we can ever achieve our highest goals and dreams.
“However hard today is, finally closing the door on that dream, at least I can know that I truly have tried absolutely everything. Not one day was wasted in getting treatment, scans or interventions that might help. I cross-trained as hard as I could whenever I was unable to run to give myself every chance should the pain settle. Now, however, is the time to accept that it is just not going to settle in time.
“As desperate as I was to be part of the amazing experience of the London Olympics, I don’t want to be there below my best. If I can’t be there and give it my best, then I would rather someone else who can do that is able to be there.
“I have been through the mill emotionally and physically the past three weeks, cried more tears than ever, vented more frustration and at the same time calmly tried every direction and avenue available to heal myself. Now is the time to rest totally, give my body chance to recover and assess calmly what can be done and where I go from here.
“In the meantime I will be supporting the team as strongly as ever and celebrating as they all go after and hopefully achieve their dreams and goals. Already London is showing the world what I knew from that day in 2005 – that the London Olympic Games will be one hell of a show!”
Regarding the injury, she added: “That joint is degenerative and badly damaged. The same foot that I was told in 1994 I would never run on again! I refused to believe it then and I don’t believe now that it can’t recover and be carefully managed to allow me to still do what I love to do. Unfortunately though, that isn’t going to happen in one week.”
Van Commenee: Radcliffe ‘one of the greatest’
Radcliffe is not retiring yet, but when she does she looks set to end up as arguably the greatest British athlete never to win an Olympic medal. Her world record of 2:15:25 from 2003 is one of the all-time great performances in the sport.
UKA head coach Charles van Commenee paid a glowing tribute, saying: “This is obviously a disappointing day for Paula and our sport, but it was important to her that if she made the start line it would be in the best possible shape. It wasn’t meant to be and she has taken the right decision to withdraw at this stage.
“I think it is important that we don’t look at Paula’s career in Olympic cycles. She is undoubtedly one of the greatest female distance runners of all times and still holds the marathon World Record.
“When we look back at her career it should be in the context of what she has achieved and not what she hasn’t. I wish her all the very best for her recovery.”
Team GB Chef de Mission Andy Hunt said: “Throughout her career, Paula has epitomised the talent, courage and determination that it takes to become a world-class performer in any sport. We know how determined Paula was to compete here, but it wasn’t meant to be and we are disappointed for her.”
Murray ready to step in
Freya Murray was named as the reserve after her excellent debut of 2:28:10 at this year’s Virgin London Marathon, a performance that left her just 26 seconds behind the selected Claire Hallissey.
The Scot, who is coached by former men’s world record-holder Steve Jones, joins Hallissey and Mara Yamauchi in Britain’s line-up for race on August 5.