|The 2001 Boston Marathon - The Wheelchair Races
by John Elliott
Men's Race: The youngster, Ernst Van Dyk, 28 from South Africa handily won the Men's Wheelchair race, beating the Race veterans and favorites, Franz Nietlispach of Switzerland (Boston champion 1995, 1997-2000) and Heinz Frei of Switzerland (Boston Champion 1994, 1996 and runner-up 2000).
Ernst Van Dyk took the lead in the Men's race from the start and never looked back. At each moment of the race, he opened up his lead, completing the course in 1:25:12. While this is the eight fastest time for a wheelchair over the course, since 2000 there has been a speed limit on the first few kilometers of the course while the wheelchairs follow a pace car. This, of course, prevents an accurate comparison of Van Dyk's time to the times of other years.
The race for places two through four was more exciting as Nietlispach, Frei and Saul Mendoza stayed near each other throughout in a strategic race. The three traded the lead through the first 25K of the race after which Mendoza, followed by Frei moved slightly away from Nietlispach and built a 10-15 second lead. However, Nietlispach's strength allowed him to move ahead of Frei and Mendoza and Nietlispach finished in second with a time of 1:31:22. A final sprint led Frei to third place in 1:31:58, while Mendoza was fourth in 1:32:05.
Women's Race: Since 1993 when then 19-year-old Louise Sauvage took third place in the Boston Marathon Wheelchair Division, Sauvage has been a contender in every race that she has entered. Sauvage was champion in 1997-1999 and runner-up in 1996 and 2000. In each of those five years when Sauvage did not win, Jean Driscoll was champion and in each year that Sauvage won, Driscoll was runner-up. This year, with Driscoll not participating, Sauvage was the clear favorite.
Only two women were in contention in the women's wheelchair race: Sauvage and Edith Hunkeler. The two women worked together during the race, trading the lead. Sauvage let Hunkeler lead (and do the work) over the final 10K of the course and moved outside to sprint past Hunkeler at the finish to secure the victory in 1:53:54 against Hunkeler's time of 1:53:58. The times were not especially quick and with Driscoll not in the race, Sauvage seemed to allow herself to win an easy, strategic race. Sandra Graf was fourth in a time of 2:04:00.