Radcliffe to be tested


ATHLETICS: Paula Radcliffe insists she will be looking to produce a quality performance at the Vallecana New Year's Eve meeting in Madrid.

While the 10,000 fun runners enjoy the party, the world marathon champion is hoping she can avoid the shaving cream and streamers traditionally thrown by a similar number of spectators in the Spanish capital and claim a final win of 2005.

"I've always wanted to do one of these new year races. They are very popular but I'll be treating it very seriously," she said.

Radcliffe knows she has a tough 10-kilometres contest on her hands if she is to sign off on another outstanding year with victory, although her racing programme was shortened in the latter stages by bronchial problems.

Jelena Prokopcuka, who last month succeeded Radcliffe as New York City marathon champion, is the biggest threat to Radcliffe's hopes.

The 29-year-old Latvian showed her steel when she recovered in the latter stages of the Big Apple race to defeat Susan Chepkemei and Derartu Tulu, two global marathon stalwarts.

Prokopcuka also has a proven pedigree over the 10km distance, including a defeat of Ethiopia's Tulu in this year's BUPA Great Edinburgh Caledonian Run.

Radcliffe has great respect for her Baltic opponent, particularly after the progress she has made in the last 12 months culminating in her New York success.

However, she has another reason for wanting a testing race in Spain. "I had problems when running in Chiba and thought I would have done better. Now I'm hoping to prove they have finally cleared up," said Radcliffe, referring to the Chiba Ekiden International Relay she competed in on November 23rd.

Apart from Prokopcuka, the other danger in the race could come from the host nation's Marta Dominguez.