|The 2003 Boston Marathon - The Wheelchair Races
by John Elliott
For the men, the 2003 Boston Marathon was a repeat of 2002 - same winner, same runner up... For the women, the 2003 Boston Marathon represented a changing of the guard as last year's winner was pushed to third place...
Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa won the Wheelchair Division in a time of 1:28:32, much slower than his 1:23:19 winning time of last year. For Van Dyk, it was not much of a contest as he had already opened up a lead of 50 yards by mile 2 and then never looked back. The race for second was a bit closer, as Krige Schabort of Switzerland raced together with Kelly Smith of Canada through the first 15 miles. From that point on, however, Schabort moved ahead and a added a few seconds to his lead each mile through his finish in 1:30:07. Kelly Smith finished third in 1:30:52. Saul Mendoza who was second inthis race in 1999 finished in fourth position.
Those who know this event could predict that three women would be involved in the chase for first place: Edith Hunkeler, the 2002 champion and 2001 runner up; Christina Ripp, 22, who finished in second place last year. Cheri Blauwet, 22, fresh off a win at the LA Marathon.
At 10 miles (39:06), the three favorites are together. Edith Hunkeler led for the first 5K, but it was not sustainable, especially as Blauwet and Ripp were working together to stay with her.
At mile 15 (1:02:00), Edith Hunkeler seems to be trying to pull away from the other two wheelchairs behind her, Christina Ripp and Cheri Blauwert - but they're not letting her go...
18 miles (1:16:16), the race is becoming a two woman race as Blauwet and Ripp have moved away from Hunkeler who is now 50 yards behind. With the wind, two racers drafting off each other have a definite advantage over a single racer and so Hunkeler is certainly out of the chase for first place as the two Americans seem to be working together.
At 22 miles (1:36:32), the Americans have a minute on Hunkeler. Blauwet seems to be doing most of the work and has held the front position longer, but the two are still together.
In the last mile, Christina Ripp is leading and Blauwet is holding on as Ripp blocks the wind. Coming down Boylston Street towards the finish line, the two are together, but Ripp pulls away and wins the Women's Wheelchair race in a time of 1:54:57. Cheri Blauwet arrives in second place in 1:54:57, while Edith Hunkeler crosses the finish line in 1:56:54. This is the first time since 1995 that American women have come in 1-2 in this race.