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Paula Radcliffe's attempt to salvage something from the ashes of her marathon disaster ended in gallant failure in the Olympic stadium on Friday night.
The painfully thin Bedford runner dropped out of the 10,000m with eight laps to go, having fallen far behind the pace.
The race was eventually won by Huina Xing of China, that country's second track success of the night, in 30min 24.37sec. By thattime, however, Radcliffe the fastest woman in the field this season had walked slowly away from the arena.
It remains to be seen if she will be back to launch another assault on that elusive first Olympic medal in four years' time in Beijing.
In the meantime, her woefully below-par performance, even on a cool evening, looks certain to prompt questions about the wisdom of those who encouraged her to run after her trauma in the marathon five days ago, which appeared to leave her emotionally and physically shattered.
Radcliffe managed to stay with the leading pack until beyond half way. But she always appeared to be labouring and there was no sign of the familiar front-running style that had seen her lead for 24 of the 25 laps four years ago in Sydney before being overhauled.
Less than an hour earlier there was high drama in the high hurdles as Liu Xiang of China won his country's first ever Olympic track gold medal in a men's event with a majestic performance in 110m hurdles final.
Liu cruised away from the field to finish in a time of 12.91sec, which equalled Colin Jackson's world record time.
Meanwhile, Team GB's men's sprint relay team ran into the final of the 4x100m, despite almost making a hash of the final changeover. They finished second behind the US favourites in Friday night's semi-final, with Brazil and Jamaica, without the injured Asafa Powell, just behind. Nigeria won the other semi-final, from Poland and Australia.
The men's 4x400m team exceeded expectations by cruising into the final by winning their heat. The quartet of Tim Benjamin, Sean Baldock, Malachi Davis and Matt Elias recorded a time of 3:02.40.
Thus there remains the faint hope that ignominy can be avoided, and the UK men's team will not leave a modern Olympic Games without a medal for the first time in history. Kelly Holmes's success cannot disguise the poverty of this men's team, which has provided only four individual finalists, Chris Tomlinson, who finished fifth in the long jump, Michael East, sixth in the 1500m, Pillips Idowu, who failed to register a triple jump in the final, and the veteran Steve Backley, who throws in the javelin final on Saturday.
Having finished fourth in Sydney, Jon Brown also runs in the final event, the marathon, on Sunday.
* Georgina Harland produced an astonishing run in the final discipline of the modern pentathlon to earn an unlikely bronze medal on Friday for Britain. A poor start in the morning left her 30th out of 32 after the shooting event and, although Harland made up ground in the fencing hall, swimming pool and equestrian arena, she started the final run in 14th position, 49 seconds behind the bronze medal. But an exceptional run allowed her to cross the line in third place, behind Hungarian gold medallist Zsuzsanna Voros. Kate Allenby, bronze medallist in Sydney, saw her medal hopes evaporate in a disastrous show-jumping round and finished eighth.
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