Unluckiest athlete ever? Paula Radcliffe's years of woe

Paula Radcliffe's chequered 20-year career in athletics appears to be over after she lost her lottery funding.

Unluckiest athlete ever? Paula Radcliffe's years of woe

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Paula Radcliffe's Olympic misery

The 38-year-old was cut from the UK Athletics World Class Programme on Monday morning, the biggest casualty of a post-Olympics assessment.

Despite being the best marathon runner in the world for several years in the early 2000s and setting a world record that has stood for nine years, the Cheshire-born star has fallen short at the Olympics time and again as she has been blighted by injury.

While she has racked up three victories in the London Marathon, two in the New York Marathon and one in the Chicago Marathon, her sole success in top-level athletics championship came in the marathon at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki.

We look back at the years of problems suffered by Britain's greatest-ever marathon runner.

Radcliffe's years of woe

1996: At her first Olympic Games, the former world junior cross country champion Radcliffe was more famous for her unusual habit of nodding violently with every step than for her athletic prowess, and she finished an agonising fifth in the 5,000m.

1999: Having moved up to the 10,000m Radcliffe came to the World Championships as a genuine gold medal contender, but she was outstripped on the final straight by Ethiopia's Gete Wami.

2000: Radcliffe came to the Olympics in Sydney with high hopes of 10,000m gold following her performance the previous year, but once again her lack of speed at the finish saw her pushed out of the medal places on the final lap as she finished fourth.

2003: Having moved up to the marathon two years previously and broken the world record in her first season at 26 miles, Radcliffe set a mark of 2 hours 15 minutes 25 seconds at the London marathon that has still yet to be beaten. Yet she never even made it to the starting line at the World Championships later that year, as she was struck down by bronchitis just a month before the race.

2004: After her disappointment in Paris, Radcliffe came to the Olympics a red-hot favourite after a brilliant win in her key warm-up race, the 5,000m at the European Cup in June. But the Englishwoman crumbled in the searing heat and smog of Athens in the height of summer, and she ended up in tears on the side of the course unable to make it to the end. Just as painful came her attempt just days later to run in the 10,000m to try and salvage something from the Games; once again, she was unable to finish the race, and once again she was left crying.

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2005: One of the high points of Radcliffe's career, the planets finally aligned for Radcliffe at the World Championships in the cool, clear air of Helsinki, and she led from start to finish to win gold by over a minute.

2007: Radcliffe had targeted a return from having her first child to defend her world title, but a stress fracture in her lower back prevented her from competing.

2008: Radcliffe was confident that her previous woes at the Games would only help push her on: "Having been through what I have been through in previous Olympics, I've already experienced the worst that can happen and I've come through and survived, so for me the pressure is less," she said before Beijing. And having won the previous year's New York marathon she was still one of the main contenders for gold, but first a foot injury and then a stress fracture to her femur spelt disaster for her training programme.

Somehow she got fit enough to make it to the start line, but it soon became clear that she just wasn't fully fit. A severe attack of cramps forced her to stop and stretch as the race came into its final 10km, and she ended up 23rd. Even more agonising is that she was still the best in the world, as she proved by winning the New York Marathon for the third time just a couple of months later.

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2009: After a broken toe ruled her out of the London Marathon, she also had to withdraw from the World Championships as she had not regained full fitness.

2012: After another break from athletics to have a second baby, Radcliffe had showed that she still had the talent to compete by coming third in the 2011 Berlin Marathon. That fired her dream of finally winning Olympic gold - or at least an Olympic medal - in the London Games earlier this year, but a foot injury in July put paid to that hope. Despite years of battling, Radcliffe effectively admitted at the time that it was all over for her: "It hurts so much to finally admit to myself that it isn't going to happen," she said.

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