There was triple delight for Team USA in the wheelchair races at the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday, April 26 as Joshua George, Tatyana McFadden and Raymond Martin all clinched IPC Athletics World Marathon gold on the streets of the British capital.
George secured his first London marathon T53/54 win after out-sprinting Great Britain’s David Weir in the final 50-meters, crossing the line in 1:31:31, just one second ahead of Weir with Japan’s Masazumi Soejima third in 1:31:33.
The 30-year-old, who won his fourth Chicago Marathon last year, was always near the front of the leading pack going round the 26.2 mile course. Coming round the final bend outside Buckingham Palace in third place, he was able to use his formidable sprinting ability to push hard up the mall to the finish line.
“Tactically it worked out perfectly for me, I knew I wanted to stay at the front and out of trouble, so I did a lot of the work at the front, and I was able to set the pace at whatever I was comfortable with,” he said.
“It was great to have such a fantastic position coming round the final turn, I had a lot of faith in my sprint at the end and I just put my head down and let my arms do the work, and it worked out great for me.”
The win was particularly sweet for George who crashed with South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk just 50m from the finish in his first London Marathon in 2008.
“The past couple of years I’ve been getting in the best shape of my life and this victory is probably one of the biggest victories of my career,” he added.
There was disappointment for Switzerland’s defending world marathon champion, Switzerland’s Marcel Hug. The 29-year-old, who won the Boston marathon on Monday, April 20, was forced to withdraw after suffering a flat tire around the half way mark.
“When [Hug] falls out everyone breathes a little bit of a sigh of relief,” admitted George. “He’s one of the strongest racers in the world but you never want equipment problems to happen to other competitors.”
There was dismay for Weir too, who had been vying for a record-breaking seventh London marathon title, but struggled with the grip on his left hand.
“I’m a bit gutted, but it’s more my equipment than anything. My glove fell apart at about 16 miles and the material I was using for the rain came unstuck. I had to change my technique slightly pushing more with my knuckles than I usually do.
“I think that tired me out a little bit but I felt alright up until the end, but I just didn’t have anything there because of the grip. I’m not going to take anything away from Josh because he was strong all through the race. I knew he was going to be a strong sprinter at the end because that’s what he used to do on the track.”
There was no surprise as Tatyana McFadden continued her domination of the women’s T53/54 marathon event with a convincing victory – and her first global marathon title - as she broke the course record for the third time to complete a hat trick of victories over the London streets.
The 26-year-old clocked an impressive 1:41:14, knocking more than four minutes off her course record despite the damp and drizzly conditions as she finished well clear of Switzerland’s defending world champion, Manuela Schaer (1:43:56), with U.S. racer Amanda McGrory (1:46:25) in third.
“I really tried not to stay behind anyone at the beginning because of the constant spray,” explained McFadden, who hit the front of the pack at the 10km mark and continued to stretch the field.
Thwarted by a flat tire over the London course at the 2012 Paralympic Games, McFadden was determined not to let that stop her claiming a remarkable 12th IPC Athletics World Championship gold medal.
“I just got out of the pack and pushed on the side. It’s a day for punctures because the road was wet and we had the debris coming up so that’s always really hard. I was really worried about that.
“It feels so good to get that medal. That was one of the mental battles I had to work through over the years, worrying about flats, and practising how fast I could change a tire.”
Silver medallist Schaer meanwhile admitted that keeping up with the American was just beyond her means:
“It was really tough, I struggled in the first half, it cost me too much energy. I really want to keep up with Tatyana. I was actually able to keep up with her on the hills, but after the hills she attacked again and that was just too much.”
It was a first world marathon gold too for American Raymond Martin in the men’s T51/52. The 21-year-old, who secured a phenomenal five gold medals on the track at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, saw off last year’s London marathon winner Santiago Sanz of Spain to clinch gold in 1:52:27, with Sanz second in 1:53:33.
“I went out hard because I knew there was a big downhill and Santiago would be strong, said Martin.
“From there I just kept pushing the pace. I’m very pleased with how it came out. I knew he was coming; he always comes up behind me and comes flying by, so I knew that I had to keep him off my tail. I stuck with my plan and it worked out well.”