Everyone is asking whether Paula Radcliffe should compete in the Olympics after suffering a stress fracture to her leg but it is not a simple question to answer.

Some stress fractures are very minor and can heal quickly or allow you to run at an early stage, while others can keep you out for a year.

Paula has two decisions to make.

Firstly, is the injury OK? This is usually easy to answer as the medics can tell you and you know yourself.

The second one is whether she be able to get enough training in to deliver the level of performance that she will be satisfied with.

This is more difficult as you just don't know what shape you can get into. Athletes are positive people and will always take risks.

Others might see the barriers more clearly but they don't run two hours 15 for the marathon as Paula has done. That's what great championship athletes are about.

Paula Radcliffe suffered Olympic heartache four years ago in Athens when she pulled out of the marathon

At least it sounds as though Paula's identified the problem, although she will be frustrated it wasn't picked up earlier as she could have been on crutches and taking the weight off the injury, which helps stress fractures to heal quicker.

And if she thinks she can be back running in two weeks then that will be the case.

She knows that at her best she is a contender for the marathon gold medal, but while she won't want to go and not perform at a good level, she also won't want to miss out.

I faced a similar decision before the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics after I injured myself tripping over a soft drinks can while training.

I knew I had a good chance of winning the 1500m in Los Angeles, having won the World Championships in 1983, but I twisted my ankle and was out for about 12 weeks.

I was fairly confident I could get into reasonable shape, but I only managed one competitive race, about four weeks before the Games at Crystal Palace, and I came last over 1000m.

I finally decided I would compete after a time trial behind closed doors at my home track in Jarrow.

A few people around me said the same thing: "If you don't go you certainly can't win, if you do, you might."

In the end I finished second behind Sebastian Coe.

You're a very fortunate athlete if you go into every major championship having had everything go 100% your way.

It's how you cope with setbacks, how you cope with injuries, how you cope with bad training sessions, how you cope with what your rivals are up to and adapt to the changing situations that matters.

Some people will just be happy to get to the Olympic Games and will just want to be on the plane to Beijing but Paua has much higher standards than that.

She won't go there to finish down the field. At this stage of her career it's about going and performing well.

She can only make a final decision after training and hopefully she will be able to get a couple of races under her belt and make a decision based on that.

It's a tough task she's setting herself, but that's not to say it's impossible.

Steve Cram was talking to BBC Sport's Peter Scrivener

Steve Cram won a silver medal in the 1500m at the 1984 Olympics and is now a BBC presenter. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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