August 25, 2004

Radcliffe was a sore loser: To get you up to speed, Paula Radcliffe was widely expected by the UK press to be a certainty for the marathon and when she pulled up/gave in/collapsed was regarded as some sort of Olympic hero by the more confused elements of the British press. I think this article puts a more logical viewpoint on the issue. Surely the ‘Olympic ideal’ is to compete and to complete the event whether you come first or last and to triumph over adversity - not to give up if you realise you’re not going to get on the podium.

posted by Pete to other at 03:40 AM - 18 comments

Goes along with the the last place finisher stuff in the Australian rowing thread just below (and from MeFi). I have to agree with this article. See Redmond, Derek.

posted by swank6 at 06:16 AM on August 25, 2004

Harsh, but possibly fair. I'm a great fan of Roosevelt's notion that "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better." But, at the same time, that speech goes on to extole the virtues of never giving up. So much of sport at that level is about the mind, and specifically about supressing doubt and fear - I think those two things just got the better of her. I find it quite ironic that the press have rallied to protect and praise and comfort her when in effect they created the problem - without their constant twittering prior to the race about her being a dead cert for a gold, she would only have felt like she'd let herself (rather than "everybody") down. I think its a shame that she didn't finish the race - if life was fiction and I was writing it, she'd have at least gallantly hobbled into the stadium like some latter day Redmond - but life isn't and she didn't. I just hope she doesn't have a go at the 10,000 metres.

posted by JJ at 07:50 AM on August 25, 2004

I was under the impression that she couldn't go on, not that she quit when she realized she wasn't going to medal. The hundred-degree heat, the hills (most marathons have very few hills, by design), the pressure of having the spotlight of the event be squarely in her face in the months leading up... it kind of made sense at the time. I thought she just miscalculated. Robert Philip is absolutely right, though. The marathon, more than any other event, is more about finishing than it is about winning. Radcliffe might be new to the discipline, but she had to be aware of that much. Lursan Ikhundeg Otgonbayar had better be getting some kind of welcome party when she gets off the plane in Ulan Bataar.

posted by chicobangs at 10:03 AM on August 25, 2004

Radcliffe was a sore loser Wow. Strikes me as being really fucking easy for this guy to say. I can appreciate this as being the 'other side of the coin' after probably reading article after article of glowing praise for Radcliffe's tough loss, but that is a cheap shot.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:44 PM on August 25, 2004

Sometimes it is wiser to quit and to cut your losses. That may be cynical but it's the way life works sometimes. Also, this isn't like the Australian rower, since Radcliffe's failure/quitting really only affects herself.

posted by molafson at 03:01 PM on August 25, 2004

Radcliffe has conducted herslef remarkably well since losing, to be honest. She's refused to blame anyone or anything else, despite almost all the British media being instantly ready to make a million escuses for her.

posted by dng at 03:32 PM on August 25, 2004

I still think that if you've dedicated your life to a certain sport or event, you should respect that sport or event enough to at least finish it out. Even if you lost.

posted by swank6 at 07:19 PM on August 25, 2004

is paula readcliffe the tim henman of athletics? same british tabloid beat-up, same ability to become highly ranked, but complete inability to win anything major. we should still admire her for her innate talent and world ranking (but not the knee high white socks she wears on the track - ye gods, what was she thinking?). but the brits love heroic failure more than anything.

posted by owlhouse at 08:55 PM on August 25, 2004

Radcliffe and Henman is a bad comparison - Radcliffe holds the world record (by a long way) - in four years, she get two shots at winning a major marathon title - Tim gets sixteen shots at a major in the same four years - ergo, he has failed much more than she has. She's a dedicated woman, but I think she's dedicated to winning rather than to the sport. The people who are dedicated to the sport are the ones that run 26 miles dressed up as the back end of a pantomime horse. I can think of no other example in any sport of someone who went from gallant loser to undisputed world number one quite as emphatically as Radcliffe has in the last few years. So she didn't finish the race - no one died because of it.

posted by JJ at 03:34 AM on August 26, 2004

Maybe the columnist tried to counter the overly glowing praise for Radcliffe, and we're all for alternative theories. But if he's presenting this as a certainty, he's off. Endurance races that go past two hours -- like marathons, triathlons and long cycling races -- are in their own league in the sense that they don't ever get any easier, no matter how many times you do them. Some athletes are obviously better at them than others, but it's very possible that the best performer in that sport could run into a situation where he or she simply runs out of juice. Radcliffe wasn't the only non-finisher, and I'd guess that not all of the other dropouts were hacks. So while the stories about Otgonbayar and Redmond are amazing, we're amazed because cutting through pain like that goes beyond the standard. If you don't, your character shouldn't be impugned. I'd be a lot more convinced of Robert Philip's argument if there was a pattern of Radcliffe punking out of races under similar circumstances. The conventional takes about Radcliffe's non-finish are more about the way the media works now, where they're expected to issue quick judgements, preferably ones that fit in with the public's preconceived notions. Thus, "Paula Radcliffe: Valiant Hero".

posted by jackhererra at 11:08 AM on August 26, 2004

If you can't whup 'em, go down.

posted by alex_reno at 03:18 PM on August 26, 2004

Britain's Marc Jenkins ended the Olympics triathlon to a hero's welcome despite finishing last in Athens. A collison midway through the cycling leg left the Welshman with a broken wheel, ending any chance he had. But the 28-year-old put the bike on his shoulder and ran two kilometres to the next wheel station, finishing the race to cheers from the British fans.

posted by dng at 06:10 PM on August 26, 2004

Awesome link, dng.

posted by dusted at 06:21 PM on August 26, 2004

"My initial thought was that I couldn't continue, but it's the Olympics and I wanted to finish," That quote from dng's link just about sums up my attitude to Radcliffe. Thanks dng, I'd missed that.

posted by squealy at 06:25 PM on August 26, 2004

So we're judging Radcliffe by the person who takes extraordinary means to finish a race? Doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Olympics or not, how many of us do that in our regular lives?

posted by jackhererra at 11:57 PM on August 26, 2004

There's a big difference between your equipment letting you down and your body letting you down - his bike was broken, so he picked it up and ran with it - Paula didn't have the option, in the event of her legs giving out on her, of jumping on a bike for the last few miles. Also, this guy's triathlon was his only event, and he was never a favourite to finish high up, let alone get a medal - for him, the old maxim that it's not the winning that's important holds true - not so when you're the world record holder and hot favourite.

posted by JJ at 02:25 AM on August 27, 2004

Paula Radcliffe is the perfect British athlete. She succeeds at everything except the events that matter to her and to those watching her. She does things that raises hopes to astronomical levels, then dashes them. And the British have tall poppy syndrome. Wonderful.

posted by etagloh at 03:05 PM on August 27, 2004

Radcliffe just dropped out of the 10,000m race at around 6800m, well behind a number of Africans and even a couple of Chinese runners. Don't give me crap about her legs failing on her AGAIN.

posted by swank6 at 05:13 PM on August 27, 2004

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