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Weir and Woods ready for revenge

22 February 2010

Britain’s top wheelchair racers David Weir and Shelly Woods will be seeking revenge at the Virgin London Marathon on 25 April where two of the best ever wheelchair marathon fields are set to battle for the coveted London title.

Weir relinquished both his London crown and the course record to his arch rival Kurt Fearnley last year when the Australian beat him to the line by a second after a dramatic finish, while Woods was disappointed to place sixth after winning in 2007 and never before missing the podium.

Fearnley just lost out to Weir in both 2007 and 2008, so the double Paralympic champion will be keen to defend the title he worked so hard to win. He is in good form, having won the New York marathon last November for the fourth time in a row.

But Weir loves racing on home soil and will come to the race full of confidence. “My preparation’s going really well,” said the Surrey man who won two Paralympic gold medals on the track in Beijing. “I’ve just come back from training in Australia, where I got some good times.

“There’s a strong field this year and maybe six who could win, but whoever gets it right on the day is likely to take it. I’m just hoping for a great race in my home town.”

Fearnley won’t be the only threat, however, for the race includes the fastest marathon racer of all time, Ernst van Dyk of South Africa, who’ll be aiming for an incredible ninth Boston Marathon title just six days before the London race, plus two former London champions in Mexican Saul Mendoza and Frenchman Denis Lemeunier.

These three are all experienced racers and know the course well, but there are a number of other potential winners among the strong field, including the swift Swiss Marcel Hug, who has one of the fastest times ever, Krige Schabort of South Africa, second in New York last year, the Japanese pair Kota Hokinoue and Masazumi Soejima, and Joshua George of USA, a triple Chicago winner.

London debutants Adam Bleakney of USA and Tomasz Hamerlak of Poland will also be in the mix, as will the Spaniards Rafael Botella Jimenez and Roger Puigbo, plus Canadian champion Josh Cassidy. All but three of the 15 elite entrants have clocked 1 hour 30 minutes or quicker, so Fearnley’s one-year-old course record of 1:28:56 could well be under threat.

Woods faces an equally daunting challenge, not least in the shape of defending champion Amanda McGrory who last year won a thrilling finish against Switzerland’s Sandra Graf. At 23, the American is 17 years younger than Graf, but they are great rivals on the road. In 2009, McGrory reversed the winning order from the previous year but Graf’s course record from 2008 of 1:48:04 still stands.

Diane Roy from Canada, who was third last year, also returns to battle it out, as does Australia’s Christie Dawes, who will hope to improve on her fifth place finish in 2009. The presence of London debutants Wakako Tsuchida from Japan, with a hat-trick of Boston wins to her name, and South Africa’s Monique van der Vorst, confirms the quality of this high-class field.

"The winners can vary at the moment in women’s racing as there are some really fast and competitive girls out there,” said the Blackpool-based Woods. “Everyone is a threat if they are in the lead pack and when it comes down to a sprint for the finish."

Virgin London Marathon race director David Bedford said: “I am delighted to welcome our two champions back for the 2010 race, as well as Britain’s finest racers David Weir and Shelly Woods. This year we have the best fields yet for the London Wheelchair Marathons and I am sure we are all set for two more thrilling races."

The full elite fields for the 2010 London Wheelchair Marathon:

Men

Name Country Best time
Kurt Fearnley AUS 1:21:17
David Weir GBR 1:27:46
Ernst van Dyk RSA 1:18:27
Marcel Hug SUI 1:21:23
Masazumi Soejima JPN 1:21:23
Saul Mendoza MEX 1:21:24
Rafael Botello Jimenez ESP 1:22:18
Denis Lemeunier FRA 1:22:31
Roger Puigbo ESP 1:23:22
Kota Hokinoue JPN 1:23:22
Krige Schabort RSA 1:24:37
Tomasz Hamerlak POL 1:27:18
Joshua George USA 1:28:22
Adam Bleakney USA 1:30:36
Josh Cassidy CAN 1:33:50

 

Women

Name Country Best time
Amanda McGrory USA 1:39:20
Sandra Graf SUI 1:35:44
Shelly Woods GBR 1:37:44
Wakako Tsuchida JPN 1:38:32
Diane Roy USA 1:40:10
Christine Dawes AUS 1:50:43
Monique van der Vorst RSA 2:05:21

 

For more information contact, contact the Virgin London Marathon press office:
Nicola Okey: 0207 902 0182; 07799 661345; nicolao@london-marathon.co.uk
Natasha Grainger: 0207 902 0199; natashag@london-marathon.co.uk