Para Athletics World Cup Report: Britons shine in London’s sun
British para-athletes David Weir, Rob Smith and Derek Rae gave the local crowds plenty to cheer about at the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday with victories in the World Para Athletics Marathon World Cup.
Scotsman Derek Rae claimed a first ever World Cup win as he came home in 2:36:13 in the men’s T45/46 event for arm amputees. Rae crossed the line more than five minutes ahead of his nearest rival, Portugal’s Manuel Mendes, who clocked 2:41:29.
“To come away with first is what dreams are made of,” said the delighted 32-year-old.
“That’s what all the hard work’s been for and I’m exceptionally proud of myself, proud of the team, proud of the support. My wife’s been a massive support too and I’d like to dedicate this to her.
“It was just a case of keeping focused and keeping the head down. I worked hard for that to happen and I think it shone through in the end so I was able to finish strongly enough to take the win.
“I think the gap I created benefitted me in the end when I was starting to tire. I knew if I just kept my head down and kept my foot on the gas the victory would come.”
With temperatures rising – thermometers reached the 20s by mid-morning – Rae knew it was going to be tough, but the crowd buoyed him on just when he needed it most.
“The support is always massive at the London Marathon and it really does help when you are digging deep. I think they saw I was working hard and they just encouraged me even more,” he added.
Weir claimed his eighth London Marathon title in 1:31:15 as he took victory ahead of Paralympic champion Marcel Hug and USA’s Daniel Romanchuk in the men’s T53/54 wheelchair race, while Smith claimed gold in the T51/52 version in 2:00:17, his first victory in London after finishing fourth for the last three years.
Colombia’s Cristian Torres was second in 2:02:21 with Helder Mestre of Portugal third in 2:53:04.
“I am really pleased with that,” said Smith afterwards. “Cristian and I were swapping places all the way. Every time it got to a hill, he had the strength to power ahead of me but on the flat I would pull it back and go into the lead.
“I caught him after about 24 and a half miles and didn’t let him get on the back of me. I put my head down and am so pleased to get the win with that. It was my fastest time in London and I am really happy.”
International stars also excelled, with Australia’s Madison de Rozario adding to her Commonwealth Games gold from one week ago with a win in the women’s T53/54 in 1:42:58.
De Rozario saw off US duo Tatyana McFadden and Susannah Scaroni as well as Switzerland’s defending champion Manuela Schär to take the top spot in only her second outing round London’s streets.
“Just physically doing the 42km felt a lot easier after last weekend and knowing that my body is happy to do it,” said the 24-year-old.
“Then you throw in the competitive part on top of it and I had a bit more confidence going in, knowing that I could stay and that I could maybe sprint finish.”
Spain’s Alberto Suarez Laso was the first of the visually impaired athletes over the line when he won the men’s T11/12 race in 2:28:49.
Laso, who claimed marathon gold on the same course at the London 2012 Paralympic Games saw off the challenge of Morocco’s 2015 world champion El Amin Chentouf, who was second in 2:29:05, with Japan’s 2016 World Cup winner Yutaka Kumagai third in 2:39:10.
“It was better than I expected,” said Laso. “I prepared a lot for the World Cup here in London.
However it was very complicated to keep up the pace we had planned because of the heat. I came here with a target that I didn’t achieve but I am happy because I won against my biggest rivals.
“The experience in London was spectacular. It’s a pleasure to come and run here as the people are great and the organisation is fabulous, especially how they treat the Para athletes.”
Japan struck gold in the men’s T13 race thanks to Toshiharu Takai, who won in 2:38:23, and his teammate Misato Michishita, who retained the women’s T11/12 title in 3:04:00.
Brazil’s Paralympic bronze medallist Edenusa de Jesus Santos Dorta was second in 3:10:12, with Spain’s Maria Paredes Rodriguez third in 3:13:20.
Double leg amputee Brian Reynolds won the men’s T62-64 event on his London Marathon debut in 3:03:35, missing the three-hour barrier he had targeted but beating the world best he set in Chicago last October, a time that unfortunately won’t be ratified as an official record by World Para Athletics because of recent changes to the leg amputee categories.