Wheelchair champions to defend their London Marathon titles
30 January 2012
David Weir and Amanda McGrory will defend their Virgin London Marathon titles on Sunday 22nd April against the strongest fields ever assembled for the elite wheelchair races.
Weir is aiming to match the six London Marathon titles won by British Paralympic legend Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson when he makes his 12th consecutive appearance in the race. Last year he became the first man to win five wheelchair marathons in London while McGrory smashed the women's course record to regain the crown she first won in 2009.
"It's gives me a real boost to know I can equal Tanni's record this year," said Weir. "She is such a fantastic ambassador for the sport so to match one her achievements will be fabulous.
"I love the London Marathon. I haven't missed one for 12 years and I wouldn't miss this one for the world."
Weir won a thrilling sprint finish in 2011, beating Switzerland's Heinz Frei by two seconds, and the Briton will face the veteran world record holder again this year when 18 of the world's elite men take to the start line just four months before the 2012 Paralympic Games.
The British record holder will be up against four former London champions, including the 54-year-old Frei, a champion three times in the late 1990s, Mexico's Saul Mendoza, London champion in 2004 and 2005, the 2010 winner, Josh Cassidy of Canada, and Frenchman Denis Lemeunier, the 2001 champion who appears in London for the 11th time.
However, Weir's sternest challenge could come from the two fastest men in the field – South African Ernst van Dyk who has won the prestigious Boston Marathon a record nine times, and the in-form Japanese racer, Masazumi Soejima, who won marathons in Tokyo, Boston and New York last year, and clocked the world's leading time of 1 hour 18 minutes 50 seconds.
The field also includes Marcel Hug of Switzerland, who was second in 2010, and Poland's Tomasz Hamerlak, London bronze medallist last year.
"We've had such strong fields for the last few years that London is now up there as one of the best wheelchair marathons in the world," said Weir, who became a father for the second time last August.
"I know I'm the man to beat in London but whoever is there on the day that's fine by me. Training's been going really well and I feel in good shape."
McGrory's task will be equally tough. The American made the most of perfect conditions last April when she took nearly two minutes from Sandra Graf's 2008 course record. McGrory outsprinted British record holder Shelly Woods by the narrowest of margins as four women beat the old time.
The recently-married Woods will be out for revenge this time as she looks to regain the title she won in 2007 while Graf also returns seeking another win for Switzerland after being second twice and third in the last three years.
The 11-strong elite women's field also includes the Beijing Paralympic champion, Edith Hunkeler of Switzerland, and the world champion, Wakako Tsuchida of Japan, not to mention Francesca Porcellato, the Italian who triumphed in London four times in a row between 2003 and 2006.
Tsuchida will be going for her sixth consecutive Boston victory just a week before this year's London race. She won the London title in 2010. Hunkeler was fourth on her only previous London appearance but she has a fine marathon record with five wins in New York and Berlin to her name.
The field also includes McGrory's US teammates Tatyana McFadden, a former Chicago and New York champion who was fourth last year, and Shirley Reilly, three times the Los Angeles champion in recent years.
The 2012 London Marathon elite wheelchair fields
|Ernst van Dyk||RSA||1:18:27|
|Rafael Botello Jiminez||ESP||1:22:18|
|Roger Puigbo Verdaguer||ESP||1:23:22|