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World Sport

Radcliffe can't explain nightmare


SPECIAL REPORT
• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece (Reuters) -- Tearful Paula Radcliffe was unable to explain why her gold medal marathon bid ended with her a crumpled heap at the roadside in the gathering gloom of a sweltering Athens Sunday evening.

The tears flowed first in a television interview and again when facing 100 reporters at the Games which have turned into a nightmare for one of Britain's favorite athletes.

"Emotionally it kicks you in the guts," said the world record-holder who has now failed three times to win an Olympic medal of any colour.

"I just felt I had let everyone else down but no one was hurting inside as much as me," she said after her agonizing defeat was watched live by 10 million in Britain on television.

Her voice frail, her face drawn, she lasted just 15 minutes at the press conference.

The British do love a loser -- especially a plucky one who bursts into tears -- and she was front-page news across the nation on Monday.

"Poor, Poor Paula" said the Daily Express over the headline "Nation shares the anguish as dream ends in tears."

"Tears of a Hero" said The Daily Mirror which declared "Sad Paula will forever be a national hero."

It was in sharp contrast to the vilification tennis player Tim Henman has to face every year when his dreams of Wimbledon glory are shattered yet again because he simply was not good enough on the day.

Everyone in Athens wanted to know if Radcliffe would try to redeem her Olympics by running in the 10,000 meters on Friday.

She admitted she was far too bewildered to make a decision right now.

The voice began to crack when she said: "I desperately want to get out there and try and redeem all the work I have put in and all the support I have had."

Earlier a British Olympic team spokeswoman confirmed Radcliffe's emotional exit from the marathon was not due to an injury.

Radcliffe, the world record holder in the event, had started the race as favorite, but broke down in tears at the side of the road after 22 miles, after losing contact with the race leaders.

"She was not injured," British team spokeswoman Emily Lewis told Reuters.

"We don't know what it was. She is seeing a doctor again this morning and then maybe we may be able to give a more definite reason. No decision has been taken on the 10,000 meters."

Rumors that Radcliffe was carrying an injury developed after she refused to speak to media at the start of Sunday's race, which was won by Japan's Mizuki Noguchi.

It was the Briton's second major Olympic disappointment following her fourth place finish in the 10,000m at the Sydney Games four years ago, when she had led until the final lap of the race.


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