Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon
There are not too many sportspeople who have inspired and captured the hearts and minds of the world like marathon queen Paula Radcliffe did over her glittering career. Be it through extraordinary successes or the manner in which she handled herself in defeat, the English woman is a sporting treasure.
Radcliffe, who was in Galway last week to promote the Revive Active health product, for which she is an ambassador, admits it was her dream to win an Olympic medal but, for a myriad of reasons, it was the one accolade that eluded the world marathon record holder in her illustrious career.
Instead, her four Olympic journeys concluded in disappointment and heartache and one of the most distressing images from her time in the singlet was when she was forced to retire from the marathon in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Despite her meticulous preparations, Radcliffe, who had smashed the world record in Chicago in 2002 and subsequently beat her own time in London the following year, was beset with illness during the 2004 Olympic event and, in a matter of hours, her whole world came crashing down.
In the end, all Radcliffe could do was sit on the pavement and wait to be buried under the rubble. Only those with a stone heart could have not been affected by the images. The world felt her anguish and despair.
“Obviously, when I set out my goals for my career, an Olympic medal would have been right up there,” says Radcliffe. “All I can say is I went there and gave it my best shot but it just didn’t work out. If I hadn’t set that goal, I might not have achieved the World Championship gold; I might not have achieved the World Record; or won the World Cross Country.
“I might not have achieved any of those if I had not been aiming for the Olympics. So, it is not like I didn’t try. I gave it my best shot and it didn’t work out. I am a big believer of not beating yourself up, especially when you have a lot of good things to be grateful for in your life.”
Indeed, as successes go, Radcliffe’s roll of honour would put that of a small country’s in the shade. After Athens, she went on to win the gold medal at the World Championships in Helsinki in 2005 to add to the World Cross Country Championship she had won in Dublin in 2002. In over two decades of long distance running she won every other accolade imaginable.
This included three London marathons (2002, ’03, 05), three New York marathons (2004, ’07 and ’08) and the Chicago Marathon (2002), along with a plethora of gold medals between World, European and Commonwealth Championships.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.