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INTERVIEW-Athletics-Dita backs Radcliffe to end Olympic agony

TOKYO, March 20 (Reuters) - Paula Radcliffe must cut down on her training if she wants to end her Olympic agony at the London Games in 2012, Beijing marathon champion Constantina Dita said on Friday.

The Briton can win the race, though, as her age is not a barrier, said the Romanian who last August became the oldest Olympic marathon winner at 38.

“She can win the gold medal at London in 2012,” Dita told Reuters in an interview. “If she doesn’t train too much she has a chance.

“I think she wants to run every race and win gold medals everywhere. It’s too much. Maybe she is training too hard. When you get older you have reduce your training and races.”

Radcliffe, 35, finished 23rd in Beijing after her training was hampered by injury. Four years earlier in Athens she broke down in tears after pulling out due to heat exhaustion.

Dita, who plans to be on the starting line in London in 2012, warned Radcliffe not to push herself too hard.

“I think Paula needs to be careful because now she has another injury,” said Dita, referring to a toe problem that has ruled Radcliffe out of next month’s London Marathon.

“I also ran 10k races because you need to rest. For the marathon you need a lot of recovery. At some point it gets too much.”

Dita, who is running 10 km at this weekend’s Tokyo Marathon, added: “Michael Phelps won eight gold medals but for the marathon you only get one chance.”

AGE GAME

Radcliffe has said Dita’s shock victory in Beijing demonstrated she could finally win an Olympic gold, pointing out she will be 38 at the London Games.

Dita, who has no intention of resting on her laurels after Beijing, added: “Maybe I can take another medal, maybe not gold. Why not? But I don’t think Paula will be scared of me.”

Dita was raised on a farm in the village of Turburea in southwest Romania and milked cows daily before taking up running seriously in her early teens.

“When I was a young child I saw Maricica Puica win the gold medal (in the 3,000 metres) at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and I wanted to be like her -- she was my idol,” said Dita.

“I realised I could run further than 3,000 metres. It was a dream just to win an Olympic medal in Beijing -- not the gold. My mum wanted me to go to university to be an engineer.”

The Colorado-based Dita returned to her family’s village to celebrate her gold medal over the New Year after persuading the mayor to keep her visit a closely guarded secret.

“It’s a small village of about 100 families,” she said. “I had to keep it a secret from the village or there would have been too many people in the house. We invited the mayor round and asked him to keep it quiet.” (Editing by Rex Gowar)

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