Paula Radcliffe’s Olympic dream may be over before it’s even started. The chances of the 38-year-old marathon runner competing in London 2012 rest on “the flip of a coin”, according to Britain’s head coach Charles van Commenee.
Three weeks ago Radcliffe admitted she was “in a bit of a panic” following the recurrence of osteoarthritis in her foot – an old injury she’s struggled to temper with painkilling injections. And it appears that a visit to famed Munich-based sports doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt (better known as “Healing Hans”) has failed to resolve the issue.
With ten days to go until the women’s marathon, van Commenee’s comments will fail to boost fans’ confidence. “Paula is Paula. Paula is always a concern,” he said. “She is on a thin line every day for the last decade. Nothing has changed.”
Radcliffe’s injury adds to her long list of Olympic woes. For four consecutive Games the nation has watched her toil away in pursuit of an Olympic title, and each time she has fallen short, whether from injury, lack of form, or those impossibly speedy Kenyan distance runners.
British fans will never forget the tear-jerking image from 2004 of a devastated Paula hunched up on an Athens roadside after dropping out of the marathon with injury and heat exhaustion four miles from the finish line.
After finishing 23rd in Beijing in 2008 following yet more injury troubles, she vowed to mount one final challenge for London 2012 and, despite initial doubts, the steely runner has ignored her critics and steadily prepared for her fifth and final Olympic Games.
Her form this season has been variable – despite her slowest ever half marathon in Vienna in April, she’s had a reportedly positive training period in May and June at her base in the French Pyrenees, although a scheduled pre-Olympic warm-up event never materialised.
Van Commenee has also confirmed a number of other injuries to the British Olympic team – marathon runner Dave Webb has been deselected after failing a fitness test at the Dartford half marathon, whilst women’s marathon hopeful Mara Yamauchi is struggling with injury, as are 110m hurdler Andrew Pozzi and javelin thrower Goldie Sayers.