Beijing 2008 – Radcliffe: Athens hell will help
Paula Radcliffe is confident of her chances at the Beijing Olympics after “experiencing the worst that can happen” at the Games in Athens in 2004.
The 34-year-old runner is one of the favourites for the marathon in China this year, her fourth Olympics after a debut at Atlanta in 1996.
Radcliffe finished fifth in the 5,000 metres in Atlanta before being edged out of the medals four years later in Sydney, although it was Athens where the Northwich-born athlete experienced her most traumatic Games.
She was one of the favourites for the marathon, but hindered by a reaction to anti-inflammatories prescribed for a leg injury and pulled out with six kilometres to go. She then entered the 10,000m a few days later but had to withdraw.
Radcliffe said that she cannot suffer anything as bad as that in 2008.
“I think for any athlete, the Olympics is the pinnacle – it’s that little bit more special,” she said.
“Winning a gold at the Olympics is that much better than winning a gold at the World Championships, which I have [done].
“I think for me also, having been to three Olympics, where I feel I’ve never been able to achieve my maximum potential, there is an added fire and momentum and, yes, added pressure to perform in Beijing.
“I also feel that having been through what I have been through in previous Olympics, I’ve already experienced the worst that can happen and I’ve come through and survived, so for me the pressure is less.
“I actually feel that that experience will make me stronger in Beijing. I think you can go into it with a little bit too much pressure on your shoulders. I think my previous experiences will help me treat it like any other marathon.
“What I need to do is go there 100 percent healthy, 100 percent fit and then just give it my best shot on the day.”
The world marathon record holder is not daunted by the humid conditions and knows she must be prepared for all eventualities.
“It will be warm in Beijing, it will be humid, which I think will be a bigger factor, but in the past I have always raced well in hot and humid conditions,” she continued.
“Obviously, times will be slower but it will be tougher for everybody, but in some ways that will be better for me because a tougher race means the tougher racers will come to the top.
“There will be strong opposition from the Chinese in their own country, from the Japanese who have a great record at Olympic Games, from the Kenyan girls and Ethiopian girls.
“You can’t go in looking at one single person, but at a group of people from where the danger might come, but also be prepared for someone who comes in really good shape who you might not be expecting and be ready to handle that too.”
The three-times winner of the London Marathon returned to running in October after 21 months out following the birth of her daughter and a stress fracture of the lower back.
She finished second in the Great North Run before winning the New York Marathon for the second time and Radcliffe insisted she had been confident despite not having competed over the distance for more than two years.
“I wasn’t surprised to win in New York,” Radcliffe said. “I wouldn’t have gone to New York if I didn’t feel from the training indications that I was in shape to win the race.
“I certainly knew I had a lot of pent-up emotion and determination from the difficulties I’d been through, and also a lot of happiness from the birth of my daughter which contributed to a positive performance.
“I think I surprised a few people who thought that after having a baby I couldn’t come back like that, but I myself never doubted it but neither did the people around me.
“The most important thing is that I did win and I am now able to build upon that for Beijing.”