Aiming to take on Radcliffe

Chunxiu Zhou laid down the gauntlet to Paula Radcliffe after winning the Flora London Marathon yesterday.

Chunxiu Zhou laid down the gauntlet to Paula Radcliffe after winning the Flora London Marathon yesterday.

The 28-year-old Chinese star destroyed the hopes of many of her probable rivals at this year's World Championships in Osaka and the 2008 Beijing Games when she clinched victory by over a minute in the world's quickest time this year of two hours 20 minutes 38 seconds.

Zhou powered away in the final three miles to finish clear of reigning Berlin title holder Gete Wami and Constantina Tomescu-Dita, runner-up two years ago.

The Asian Games champion inserted a split of 5mins 9secs in the 24th mile to wreck the hopes of her Ethiopian and Romanian rivals.

They finished in 2hrs 21mins 45secs and 2:33.55.

Now Zhou is looking forward to clashing with Radcliffe, if not in Osaka in August then 12 months later in her homeland.

Zhou said: "She's an amazing runner who I look up to. I would like to run against her in Osaka or Beijing.

"It would be nice to break her world record in my home country."

Radcliffe has yet to confirm whether she will race over the marathon or on the track in Osaka, but plans to contest the longer distance at Olympic level.

Her plans for this summer are unconfirmed, after a setback at a training camp in Colorado.

But Radcliffe has insisted she will be fit to compete in Japan, where she has the option of racing over 10,000m or the marathon.

Her presence in the road event would bolster the Norwich Union GB side's success for individual and team medals, particularly after solid displays yesterday by Mara Yamauchi and Liz Yelling.

Yamauchi and Yelling were never expected to push their elite rivals but did enough to assure selection for Osaka.

Yamauchi qualified by right as first Briton home as she finished sixth in 2:25.41.

The selectors will now be hoping to persuade Yelling to join her in Osaka, after she earned eighth position in a personal best of 2:30.44. Haile Gebrselassie on his third London appearance again failed to win a title he has craved since finishing third on his debut five years ago.

The 34-year-old Ethiopian dropped out before 20 miles, adding to his woeful display of 12 months ago when finishing ninth.

Again his inability to hold his own against world-class opposition raised questions about his marathon credentials. Defending champion Felix Limo had questioned before the race the former Olympic and world 10,000m gold medallist's experience against the world's best, claiming his three career victories were against weak fields.

Limo's assertion appeared justified when Gebrselassie ground to a halt.

"I don't know, maybe it was something I drank. I had some milk this morning which seemed to cause a bad reaction, but I'm all right now," said Gebrselassie, who beforehand compared winning in London would match that of an Olympic gold medal success. The world's greatest distance runner, regarding this latest slip-up merely as a hitch, still intends to chase victory in next year's Games in Beijing.

Martin Lel kept the coveted men's title in Kenyan hands for a fourth successive year, producing a storming finish in the final 300 metres to regain the crown he surrendered in a sprint finish to Limo last April.

The 28-year-old blazed down The Mall to win from Abderrahim Goumri by three seconds in 2:07.41, with last year's champion fading in the dash for the line finishing third in 2:07.47. The trio were in a pack of six runners which proved the stronger in the last mile as 37-year-old world record holder Paul Tergat faded to finish in sixth.

Lel said: "I didn't know I was going to win because the race was tactical. The finish was very quick."

Dan Robinson, last year's Commonwealth bronze medallist, was the first Briton home beating some world-class opponents to finish ninth in 2:14.14 with Andi Jones a place behind in 2:17.49.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer