Tokyo 2020 – ‘We had someone hiding in the bushes’ – Paula Radcliffe opens up on post-Athens torment
"I was out on a run one day and was really upset by something that I’d read about gold-digger stuff and I couldn’t run anymore because I was crying," revealed British athletics royalty Radcliffe in a revealing conversation with Adam Gemili and Andrew Pozzi. Listen to Gemili & Poz on all good podcast platforms now.
Paula Radcliffe has opened up about the torment she was subjected to after the 2004 Olympics.
Radcliffe arrived in Athens as the hot favourite for marathon gold after blowing the world record apart in 2003, but dramatically dropped out with three miles remaining before failing to finish the 10,000m five days later.
In a revealing chat with fellow athletics stars Adam Gemili and Andrew Pozzi on the new Eurosport podcast Gemili & Poz, she admits memories of that day are still “woozy” but said what followed was horrible.
Paula Radcliffe competes in marathon at 2004 Olympics
Image credit: Getty Images
“Someone phoned up my doctors clinic asking for the results of the pregnancy test because they were convinced I had a miscarriage during a race. And they [the doctors] and I had to say, ‘that wasn’t me phoning for results and that isn’t what happened’," said Radcliffe.
“The press intrusion was bad. We had someone hiding in the bushes if I went out for a jog around Loughborough. It was just too much and that was part of the reason for going away to Flagstaff [in Arizona].
And then I started reading some stuff, people saying that I only ran for the money and [was] not able to do it [win] in the championships because I had raced too much, when actually the opposite was true.
“I was out on a run one day and was really upset by something that I’d read about gold-digger stuff and I couldn’t run anymore because I was crying. I sat down by the side of the trail and just thought ‘this is stupid, this is stopping me enjoying what I enjoy doing’.
“Before that point I tried to say I don’t really care what people say about me. But I really was pretty bothered. I just reached that point and just said, ‘you know what, I know if it’s true or not’.”
Paula Radcliffe breaks the world marathon record in 2003
Image credit: Imago
Radcliffe says the experience helped her cope when she was implicated in blood doping allegations in 2015.
The 2005 world marathon champion was later cleared by the IAAF, world athletics’ governing body, who called the findings a “gross misinterpretation of incomplete data” – but not before her name had been dragged through the press.
“That’s the worst thing for an athlete to through, to have your whole integrity questioned and not be able to prove it,” she continued.
“So you just have to learn to live with the fact that some people are always going to believe you did something you didn’t and accepting that is really hard.”
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