Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Radcliffe's Ready to Be the Exorcist

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Radcliffe's Ready to Be the Exorcist

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN CHADBAND

Paula has found the spirit to vanquish all of her demons By Ian Chadband THE examinations never stop for the tireless Paula Radcliffe. At the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, winning her first major track gold felt like a graduation day of sorts for the most industrious girl in the class.

Here in Munich tonight, though, she will be asked once again to resit a test which has constantly seemed too taxing for her.

Hopefully, it's not tempting fate to suggest that these days she has the look more of the garlanded prom queen than the luckless school swot.

Yet, if her old limitations resurface tonight, Radcliffe knows that two head girls of European distance running will be on hand to dominate prize-giving night once again.

Ireland's Sonia O'Sullivan is 32 and has to fit in her training around changing nappies.

Portugal's Fernanda Ribeiro is 33 and has disappeared from racing view for months.

The widespread feeling is that their time may have passed while Radcliffe's moment, at 28, has just dawned.

So the woman who has had to live with the sight of the back of their green vests disappearing into the distance so often at the business end of major races must know that tonight's European Championship 10,000 metres final is a watershed for her, perhaps the definitive halfhour of her track career.

The roads and the marathon await Radcliffe. After her startling debut in London in April, you will find few in the sport who do not believe that this is where her future exclusively lies.

Only the woman herself, with a stubborn, never-say-die streak which has epitomised her whole career, is adamant that she can still be a master of both.

She may be right. In Manchester nine days ago, she obliterated a Commonwealth Games 5,000m field, producing an incredible, largely solo effort just three seconds shy of the world record.

Marathon training, she said, had made her stronger, more confident.

Did it make her feel like the complete runner?

"I'm getting there," she smiled.

Munich, though, will offer a gauge of what now looks tantalisingly like world-beating track prowess.

On seven occasions over the past seven years, either O'Sullivan or Ribeiro have sprinted home ahead of her in the races that matter.

It's why yesterday when she pondered a tough, 29-strong field which includes Europe's number one this year, Romania's Mihaela Botezan, she could still not think beyond her two old tormentors.

Is this going to be exorcism, or just deja vu?

"I'll just run the way I feel, like I did in Manchester. I'll get in front be the exorcist when I feel right, surge when I feel strong, but I don't have a plan. I'll just go out there, do my own race, go with my instincts," shrugged Radcliffe.

"I'm not going to worry about getting rid of people. …

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