FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FLORA LONDON ELITE WHEELCHAIR MARATHON 2008
David's Sprint Does It Again
LONDON - (April 13, 2008) - Britain's David Weir again demonstrated the
value of his sprint finish with a hat-trick of victories in the Flora
London Elite Wheelchair Marathon. For the whole distance there was a group
of seven talented athletes and it was not until the last four hundred and
fifty metres that they separated.
From the start the magnificent seven comprising David, the title holder;
Kurt Fearnley, the Australian Paralympic champion; Denis Lemeunier from
France and the London winner in 2001; South Africans Krige Schabort and
Ernst Van Dyk; World Record holder Heinz Frei and American Joshua George
were together testing and looking at each other to assess fitness.
As they entered The Mall there was an explosion of speed and David Weir had
more of it than the others and showed us all why he loves the London course
to win his third title in succession and fourth in all. None of the other
protagonists could compete with the dynamic David whose finishing time was
1hr 33mins56secs. Kurt Fearnley was second as he was last year, four
seconds adrift after overcoming a wheel entanglement with the Japanese
Choke Yasuoka at the Cutty Sark. He was followed by Denis Lemeunier and
London debutant South African Krige Schabort. In fifth place came the Swiss
Heinz Frei. These five were separated by only seven seconds.
Unfortunately Ernst Van Dyk and Joshua George came too close for comfort as
their wheels clashed with only one hundred metres left and ended up
crashing into the hoardings around the spectators stand. Both were very
disappointed as they had chances of medals. George's chair was damaged in
the confrontation but both athletes recovered to finish sixth and seventh.
After the race David reflected "I knew it would be tough and I tried to
pull away a few times. I tried to use the hill to my advantage but the head
wind was too strong. I know I've got a good sprint finish, so I just stayed
with them and got them all in the end." His performance today showed he had
recovered from the glandular fever which laid him low for a couple of
months around Christmas. He said he felt he his form was good after winning
the recent Lisbon Half Marathon, only eight seconds outside the world
The defeated Fearnley was philosophical in his words after the race. "A bit
of a disaster really! I had a bit of a crash at 10km and a flat tyre at
20km. I'm very glad that the group went for a tactical race because with
those problems I would have never been able to keep up with the pace.
Hopefully, next time it will be different. That's the way wheelchair racing
Britains promising youngster Brian Alldis took eighth spot with a personal
best time of 1hr37mins23secs. He will be hoping this will be good enough
for selection for the Paralympics.
WOMEN'S ELITE WHEELCHAIR RACE
Speedy Sandra Breaks Course Record
Sandra Graf of Switzerland making her London debut enhanced her growing
reputation as a marathon racer by creating a procession in the women's
race. In the process she broke the course record previously held by Swede
Monica Wetterstrom since 1997. Graf's winning time of 1hr48mins04secs
improved the record by a margin of just over a minute.
Up to five kilometres Graf, the American Amanda McGrory, the title holder
Britain's Shelly Woods and four times winner Italian Francesca Porcellato
were together. Then the race started and by ten kilometres Porcellato had
dropped off the pace with Amanda McGrory just in the lead. By fifteen
kilometres Sandra was twenty one seconds ahead of Shelly Woods with Amanda
a further six seconds adrift. Then Graf accelerated and pulled away leaving
the others in her wake, increasing her lead to be almost four minutes ahead
of the American at the end.
After the race Shelly explained "I was feeling good today for quick time
but got a puncture at three miles. This made it very hard to hold on to the
others and I couldn't change the tyre until twenty miles. I anticipate
racing against Sandra and Amanda in Switzerland soon and hope I don't
puncture then." Shelly's bronze medal time was 2hrs1min59secs- her slowest
London since 2006.
After the race Sandra said "It was a slow start which I liked but at 10km I
decided to go faster. After a while, I decided to go on my own because it
was very windy. At the end I was just happy to win."
Today's race will be remembered for the closest contest on record with
seven athletes in the finishing straight together.
1 WEIR, DAVID (GBR) 1:33:56
2 FEARNLEY, KURT (AUS) 1:34:00
3 LEMEUNIER, DENIS (FRA) 1:34:01
4 SCHABORT, KRIGE (RSA) 1:34:02
5 FREI, HEINZ (SUI) 1:34:03
6 VAN DYK, ERNST (RSA) 1:34:25
7 GEORGE, JOSHUA (USA) 1:34:46
8 ALLDIS, BRIAN (GBR) 1:37:22
9 BOTTELLO JIMENEZ, RAFAEL (ESP) 1:37:25
10 YASUOKA, CHOKE (JPN) 1:39:49
11 PATEL, TUSHAR (GBR) 1:48:16
1 GRAF, SANDRA (SUI) 1:48:04
2 MCGRORY, AMANDA (USA) 1:51:58
3 WOODS, SHELLY (GBR) 2:01:59
4 PORCELLATO, FRANCESCA (ITA) 2:04:48
5 PIERCY, SARAH (GBR) 2:35:53