London 2012 Olympics: Freya Murray to be called up as sub for Paula Radcliffe
SCOTLAND’s Freya Murray is set to be confirmed as Paula Radcliffe’s replacement in the Olympic Marathon after the Englishwoman was forced to admit defeat in her race to be fit. Radcliffe withdrew yesterday afternoon, having spent weeks trying to recover from the effects of osteoarthritis in her left foot.
Although UK Athletics were not allowed to name an official reserve when they selected their team, it has been understood since April’s London Marathon that Murray was next in line. The 28-year-old set a personal best of 2hrs 28min 12sec in that race, and was the second British woman home behind Claire Hallissey.
The British Olympic Association are now applying to the IOC to have Murray accepted under the Late Athlete Replacement policy. If confirmed, she will join Hallissey and Mara Yamauchi as Team GB’s representatives in Sunday’s race.
Radcliffe’s participation had been in doubt for some time, with fears over her fitness only worsening when her arthritis flared up. She finally made the agonising decision to withdraw yesterday, after a test run at the British long-distance runners’ camp in Font Romeu, France.
When the Mail on Sunday newspaper declared yesterday morning that Radcliffe was out, Team GB officials at first reacted tetchily, insisting that she was still a member of the squad. But the athlete herself accepted that her situation was “not looking good”, and appeared to be upset only by the fact that someone other than herself had broken the news.
“Hurt by dailymail & whoever thinks [they] know my situation, before even do final test run,” Radcliffe tweeted. “Not looking good but my heartbreaking news to break!”
Only hours later, however, she did break that news, and it was made official at 3.45pm. Athletics Team Leader Charles van Commenee said: “This is obviously a disappointing day for Paula and our sport, but it was important to her that if she made the start line it would be in the best possible shape. It wasn’t meant to be and she has taken the right decision to withdraw at this stage.
“I think it is important that we don’t look at Paula’s career in Olympic cycles. She is undoubtedly one of the greatest female distance runners of all times and still holds the marathon world record.
“When we look back at her career, it should be in the context of what she has achieved and not what she hasn’t. I wish her all the very best for her recovery.”
Radcliffe herself was deeply disappointed, but took some consolation from the fact that she had tried everything in her power to be ready for the race. “From the day when it was announced that London had won the bid, taking part and performing well in the London Olympic Games has been a major goal in my life,” she said. “The goal of a fifth Olympics in my home country, what better? The chance to make amends to myself for bitter disappointments at the previous two Olympics.
“Through a lot of tough times it has kept me fighting, motivated and focused. That is why it hurts so much to finally admit to myself that it isn’t going to happen.
“My sport is a beautiful sport, it gives so much fun and enjoyment, I believe it helps me to be a better person and I have been very fortunate to experience some great success and have so many beautiful and happy memories.
“However, the downside is that it can break your heart and spirit many times over when your body is simply unable to match what your heart and brain want it to do. Sadly, mine is not a career or a hobby where mind over matter can work when your body is hurt, nor where giving less than your best each day can ever work.
“Yes I made more commitment than ever in preparation this year, two months away from the three most important people in my life. However every single athlete out there makes the same commitments, puts their all into their preparation, and sadly I am not the only one to suffer heartbreak in trying to go after our goals.
“The most important thing is, as I always believe, to know that you did all you could in going after those dreams. It is hard to know that had the Olympics been six weeks earlier I could have gone out there and run confidently knowing that I was in the best shape I had been in for a while, but I am by no means the first to experience something like this.
“No one tells us in advance where the limits of our own bodies lie, and pushing these limits is the only way we can ever achieve our highest goals and dreams.
“However hard today is, finally closing the door on that dream, at least I can know that I truly have tried absolutely everything.”
It is a moot point whether Radcliffe tried too much, and was given too much of a chance to prove her fitness. While Murray is sure to be physically ready to compete, it is arguable that she or any other athlete would be better prepared mentally if they were given more than a few days’ notice of their inclusion.
And, had Radcliffe pulled out months ago, Jo Pavey could also have been included in the team. Instead, Pavey is in the long-distance track races, despite the fact that her best form in recent years has been in the marathon.
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