|The 2004 Boston Marathon - The Wheelchair Races
by John Elliott
For the men, the 2004 Boston Marathon was continued the dominance of Ernst Van Dyk - in this race and in this sport. For the women, a pair of American friends were favored, but one dropped out, leaving the 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 1:18:27 - a new course record in Boston and tying the record of four consecutive wheelchair victories at Boston. A large tail-wind must have helped this time, but the fact that Van Dyk has given up his dayjob to focus full-time on training for his sport must also be a factor in this fantastic time.
The race began with Ernst Van Dyk leading the race and Joel Jeannot and Franz Nietlspach riding along behind. But by mile 19, into the beginning of the hills, Van Dyk pulled away from any of his competition. Joel Jeannot was the newcomer to this race and finished in second place in 1:21:08 - also ahead of the previous course record. Franz Nietlspach was third in 1:23:07. Kelly Smith who was third in this race last year finished in 1:24:04.
Those who know this event could predict that three women would be involved in the chase for first place: Edith Hunkeler, the the 2003 third-place finisher, 2002 champion and 2001 runner up; Christina Ripp, 23, champion in 2003 and runenr-up in in 2002 and Cheri Blauwet, 23, who was second in 2003.
At the start of the race, it was Christina Ripp who led the pace and looked strong - she is the favorite and deserved that position. By mile 5, there were 5 wheelchairs following Ripp.
By mile 13 (47:58), word had come back that Christina Ripp had dropped out of the race, apparently due to a flat tire. Sandra Graf was leading Cheri Blauwet and Edith Hunkeler.
Mile 19 (1:12:02) - Cheri Blauwet is leading Sandra Graf and Edith Hunkeler who remain together - this is usually where this race begins - the downhill first portion and flats now will give way to the Newton Hills.
Over the next few miles, it is Cheri Blauwet who moves away from the others and opens up a lead. She is the strongest, and it is too bad that we would not see an exciting finish between her and Christina Ripp as we had seen in 2003.
At the end, Cheri Blauwet wins in 1:39:53, more than fifteen minutes faster than her 2003 finish time - obviously helped by the strong tailwind. Edith Hunkeler was second in 1:41:13 and Sandra Graf was third in 1:42:13.