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Radcliffe did not finish the 2004 Olympic Marathon in Athens
Paula Radcliffe's Olympic career began in 1996 in Atlanta, when she finished fifth in the 5,000m. In 2000 in Sydney, she was fourth in the 10,000m. In 2002, she made the move up to the marathon and won her first race at that distance, the 2002 London Marathon (from PaulaRadcliffe.com).
Going into the 2004 Athens Olympics, Radcliffe had run seven marathons. She won six and set world records in five, and had run four out of the five fastest times in the history of the women's marathon.
An Olympic victory seemed practically preordained, but the heat took its toll and for the first time in her marathon career, Paula Radcliffe did not finish. The BBC reported that she dropped out, devastated, at the 23-mile mark.
Radcliffe was insistent that the heat wasn't to blame for her collapse, but the humid 35-degree Celsius conditions (95 F) didn't do her any favours. Not recovered from the marathon debacle, she also dropped out of the 10,000m race five days later.
After Athens, Paula rebuilt her reputation with a victory in the 2005 London Marathon, then won the 2005 World Championship in Helsinki. After taking a break and having a child, she returned to run the 2007 New York Marathon, which she won.
Despite her successful comeback, Paula's body started to break down leading into the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She sustained a stress fracture in her femur in May 2008, and it was believed there was no way she'd be ready to run in August.
Paula persevered with her training, and in the race. She stayed with the leaders for 19 miles in sweltering conditions before giving way to severe cramping. She was forced to stop and stretch before continuing on to the finish. She ended up 23rd with a time of 2:32:38 and once again, there were tears at the finish line.
At 38 years old, London will likely be Paula Radcliffe's last chance to break her Olympic curse.