Women's wheelchair race report: McFadden makes it four wins in a row
Tatyana McFadden celebrated her fourth Virgin Money London Marathon victory in a row today. The American track and road star, who also won in Boston on Monday, finished in 1:44:14, one second ahead of Swiss racer Manuela Schar.
“It’s a little birthday present to myself and it is wonderful to win again,” the American gleamed after celebrating her birthday on Thursday.
At 27, McFadden is considered one of the greatest athletes of our time. She achieved the grand slam of marathons – Boston, New York, Chicago and London – last year and has broken the course record in all three of her previous London victories, lowering it each time but unable to beat her 2015 best of 1:41:14 today.
While she seems unbeatable, McFadden was defeated in February’s Tokyo Marathon by Japanese racer Wakako Tsuchida, who finished in third place today.
The London Marathon results mirrored the Boston women’s podium positions earlier in the week. Tsuchida’s time of 1:45:28 was more than one minute behind McFadden and Schar.
“It’s really different to Boston, polar opposites,” said McFadden after the race. “In Boston, there are lots of climbs but here it’s relatively flat – so you just have to be smart.”
Many athletes are taking on more marathons this year, encouraged to compete by the new Abbott World Marathon Majors wheelchair series, which offers US$50,000 prize money to the overall winner over a 12-month, eight-race programme that includes Boston, London and the Paralympic marathons. Following Boston and London victories, McFadden is top of the leaderboard.
On paper, another course record was always possible today with the number of world-class women taking part, but this morning’s weather meant a change of tactics for many of the athletes.
Damp conditions at the start meant more race preparation for the women; extra consideration is given to equipment like gloves in rain or wind. As the weather improved and the temperature rose a little, the athletes were able to increase their speed.
While McFadden and Schar were eventually able to break away, the race turned tactical late on. At half way, there were five women sitting close together.
McFadden’s US team mate and 2009 and 2011 London Marathon winner, Amanda McGrory, and Lihong Zou from China were also in the pack but at 18 miles, McFadden, Schar and Tsuchida broke away.
“It was like a yo-yo effect today,” said McFadden. “We had a big group at the start, then we’d break away, then we’d get back together. I got nervous towards the end, as I wasn’t smart enough, but it’s all about mental focus.”
McFadden admitted the stiff competition from the world record holder, Schar, made her up her game.
“Manuela is an identical copy of me,” continued McFadden. “She’s so tough, so I knew she would be with me whatever I did. I knew she would catch up and it would be a tough finish.”
Delighted after her fourth victory in London, the marathon world champion will take on her biggest sporting challenge so far in September. She will go for seven golds in the Rio Paralympic Games, over distances from 100m to the marathon and the relay.
“I have a lot of things to concentrate on now, as I’ll switch to track when I go back,” she said. “It’s a great end to the spring marathons.”
Prince Harry presented the prizes to the all the winners in today’s races, from youngsters in the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon to the champions in the wheelchair races, who were delighted to hear that the Queen’s grandson would be handing out their medals.
“I just met Prince Harry again, so my day got even better,” McFadden smiled. “I told him, ‘We need to stop meeting like this!’ I think it’s really great that he supports the para-sport clubs and the Paralympics.”
Unfortunately, both British women, Shelly Woods and Jade Jones, had to pull out during the race.