Germany had Michael Ballack. Australia: Pat Rafter. But has anyone been as unlucky as Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe when it comes to major events?
The 38-year-old MBE from Cheshire recently discovered that the UK Athletics World Class Performance Programme have withdrawn her funding after her absence at this year’s London Marathon. And who can blame them?
A champion runner, Radcliffe has amassed no end of individual accolades in a sparkling career that jolted her onto the world stage in 1993 and has since seen her claim title after title. But it seems the veteran has had her day. Nowhere to be seen in the London Olympics due to injury and now missing events with increasing regularity, Radcliffe has been unable to maintain her standard of yesteryear.
…London was supposed to be her homecoming…
And it is exactly the issue of the Olympics that may perturb her for the rest of her days lest she make a miraculous – and exceedingly unlikely – medal run in Rio in four years time. Indeed, the athlete’s Olympic record reads like that of a journey woman who never honestly believed in her ability to win.
In Sydney in 2000, she came as close as is physically possible to winning a medal without doing so – fourth place. Yet four years later she failed to finish in both the 10,000 metres and the marathon. Then, Beijing only brought her 23rd place in 2008. London was supposed to be her homecoming, and how cruel fate was to deny her that chance through a foot injury.
…I’d rather eat a packet of crisps…
Radcliffe’s ability as a world class athlete has never been in question. To even achieve fifth, fourth and twenty-third placed finishes at three separate Olympic Games are no easy feat. Ask me to run 2000 metres and I’ll give you 2000 reasons why I’d rather eat a packet of crisps.
It is, however, the simple fact that, for a former London Marathon winner, London Marathon world record holder and World Champion, Radcliffe’s Olympic record signals a “perennial inability to deliver on the grandest stage”.
…We all remember the tears…
She isn’t the only one, of course. Ballack and Rafter are but a raft (forgive the pun) of names who have never won the trophies they craved the most. All the way up until this September, even Andy Murray was an unwelcome member of that list before he finally lifted his first elusive Grand Slam trophy.
It is not a sin. We all remember the tears. But now that Radcliffe’s funding has dried up, the tailwind has been removed from her flight. Is this the end for one of Britain’s greatest ever runners? And if so, did she ever truly fulfill her potential?
The mind wanders.