Paula went some way to atone for her Olympic disappointment at Athens 2004, when she failed to finish, by winning World Championship gold in Helsinki in 2005. Most recently she claimed the New York marathon title for the second time in November 2007 and has won the London marathon on three previous occasions. Beijing will be her fourth Olympic Games. She first made her mark on the cross country circuit as a 19 year old when she beat Wang Junxia to win the 1992 IAAF World Junior Cross country title in Boston.
Her Olympic debut came in Atlanta 1996 where she finished 5th in the 5000m. After taking silver at the 1999 World Championships over 10000m, she came agonisingly close to an Olympic medal in Sydney where she eventually had to settle for fourth despite leading for much of the race The first of her two world cross country titles came in Brussels in 2001 in a sprint with old rival Wami. The track titles she craved finally came in 2002 with two 10000m golds in very contrasting conditions. Commonwealth Games gold in the Manchester sunshine was followed by victory in torrential rain at the European Championships in Munich. By this time she had also switched to Marathon running and made a a stunning debut in London in 2002. Her 2:18:56 victory was the second fastest marathon time in history and the fastest debut run ever. Her next outing at the distance was even more spectacular as she broke the world record with a magnificent 2:17:18 in Chicago, defeating former record-holder (and current world champion) Catherine Ndereba by two minutes.
She lowered the world best time to 2:15:25. with another superb performance in London in 2003. The Athens 2004 games were frustrating for her; she courageously decided to compete in the 10,000m final less than a week after her unhappy marathon experiences but again had to withdraw this time with eight laps to go. Her fans were delighted to see her bounce back to win the London Marathon for a third time in 2005, before winning her World Championship gold. Awarded the Sportswoman of the year title in 2005 by the Sports Journalists Association, she took a break from the sport to have a baby.
Her great aunt Charlotte Radcliffe won an Olympic swimming medal in 1920. She was part of the British 4x100m freestyle relay team that took silver. Paula married former international 1500m runner Gary Lough in 2000 and gave birth to a daughter, Isla, on 17 January 2007. Paula is a European languages graduate of Loughborough University. She was awarded the MBE in 2002. Other awards include British female athlete of the year in 1999, 2001 and 2002, and IAAF world female athlete of the year in 2002. The Loughborough home she bought in 2001 has seen little of her as she spends much of the year training at altitude in Font Romeu and Aluquerque.She will match the achievements of race walker Chris Maddocks in competing for the British track and field team at five Olympics at London 2012 however Tessa Sanderson leads with six outings . Her pre-race superstitions include an ice bath and wearing lucky pins while her favourite food is sushi.