Updated: 26/03/2012 14:37 | By pa.press.net

Paula Radcliffe



Paula Radcliffe stands dejected after dropping out of the 10,000 metres at Athens 2004. (© Press Association)

Paula Radcliffe stands dejected after dropping out of the 10,000 metres at Athens 2004.

Born: 17/12/1973

Place of birth: Davenham

Event: Athletics

Previous Olympics: 4

Previous medals: 0

Given her status as one of the finest female distance runners of all time, it is a sad fact that one of the most indelible images of Paula Radcliffe remains her misery at having to drop out of the Athens Olympic marathon in 2004.

The gold-medal favourite and world record holder, Radcliffe suffered a leg injury in the build-up to the Games and was forced to withdraw midway through the race, where banks of television cameras were present to chronicle her distress.

Radcliffe's subsequent retirement in the 10,000 metres, and her disappointment four years later in Beijing, where a succession of injuries led to her finishing 23rd, reveal the true extent of her Olympic heartache.

Determined to leave nothing to chance ahead of her home Olympics, Radcliffe returned to action after a 19-month lay-off for the birth of her second child, and targeted more marathon success.

Reports of her demise were greatly exaggerated. Radcliffe finished third in the Berlin marathon in September 2011, in what was the first marathon she had even been able to complete in three years.

While others celebrated her successful comeback, it is testament to Radcliffe's towering ambition - and her fervent desire to right the wrongs of her Olympic history - that she professed herself disappointed with the result.

"I should be happy but I'm not," Radcliffe said afterwards. "I came here and I wanted to win the race. But stuff has been up and down with illnesses and niggles which was to be expected after the birth."

Radcliffe has been shrugging off disappointments and setbacks since the start of her career, when she was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma shortly after taking up running at the age of 14.

"You have to take the attitude that it's not something that should stop you doing what you want to do," said Radcliffe. "You just have to learn about it, how to control it and how to live with it."

While most of her early success came in cross-country, there was no doubt as to the future trajectory of her career once she moved up to the marathon in 2002 and immediately claimed victory in London.

In 2005, she made headlines when she was forced to take a very public toilet break midway through the London Marathon in full view of the public and the television cameras.

Radcliffe duly won the race to add another success to her glittering career, but the media had a field day over the incident, overshadowing another magnificent sporting achievement.

It seems Radcliffe really is destined to have to do things the hard way.

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