After marathon debacle, Radcliffe fails to finish 10,000

Friday, August 27th 2004, 8:12 pm
By: News On 6

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Five days ago, world-record holder Paula Radcliffe dropped out of the Olympic marathon in tears a few miles from the finish. On Friday, she made the risky choice of running the 10,000 meters _ and the result was much the same.

Running two grueling races in such a short span is tough enough in the best of times. For Radcliffe, it proved doubly painful.

The British star, one of the greatest distance runners of her generation, quit 16 1/2 laps into the 25-lap event after her legs and willpower gave out. Dizzy and dazed, she stepped off the track onto the infield and slowly made her way to the stadium tunnel as the race went on without her.

``My legs were too beaten up after the marathon,'' she said. ``There was nothing there. This has totally crushed me emotionally.''

Radcliffe was gone by the time 20-year-old Xing Huina crossed the finish line to win in 30 minutes, 24.36 seconds. It was China's second gold medal of the evening, coupled with Liu Xiang's dominant victory in the 100-meter hurdles.

Ethiopians finished 2-3 in the 10,000, with Ejegayehu Dibaba taking the silver in 30:24.98 and 2000 Olympic champion Derartu Tulu settling for bronze in 30:26.42.

Radcliffe hobbled through the interview area and fell into the arms of her husband and coach, Gary Lough, and the couple held each other tightly for a long moment. She spoke softly to reporters and cried briefly before being led off for precautionary medical checks.

``I would much rather be out here tonight than watching on TV,'' Radcliffe said. ``I have no regrets. I would always have said, 'What if, what if.''

Radcliffe had been the favorite in Sunday's marathon, but couldn't keep up with the leaders and stopped about 3 1/2 miles from the finish, sobbing uncontrollably by the curbside. In subsequent British television interviews, she burst into tears.

Some British newspaper columnists accused her of being a quitter, saying she should have finished the marathon.

Radcliffe resumed training Wednesday to keep her options open for the 10,000. She made the decision to enter Friday morning, barely 10 hours before the race, an announcement which was headline news in Britain.

Radcliffe, 30, was desperate for an Olympic gold, or any medal, in what may be her last games. She was fifth in the 10,000 at the 1996 Atlanta Games. In Sydney four years ago, she led most of the race but was passed on the final lap and finished fourth. Her only 10,000 title came at the 2002 European Championships.

Radcliffe had the world's fastest time this year, 30:17.15, set at Gateshead, England, on June 27. But, after Sunday's debacle, there were big doubts over her mental and physical condition.

Radcliffe looked fine in the opening stages of the race, running near the front, her head bobbing in familiar style, wearing dark glasses and a nasal strip. She was in first place with 18 laps to go, then dropped just behind the leaders.

With 13 laps to go, Radcliffe started to labor, her face and body showing the strain. She was in 10th place with 10 laps left, and fell farther and farther behind as runners overtook her. Finally, after running for 20 1/2 minutes and with 8 1/2 laps left, she pulled out.

``I wasn't going to do myself permanent damage,'' Radcliffe said. ``I wasn't going to run myself into the ground.''

``I will be back,'' she said. ``I have experienced the lowest of the lows this week, and I need some time to recover.''