Meet the elite wheelchair athletes

Before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Price Harry press the starter button at 10am on Sunday 23 April, a great number of people will have already started their London Marathon. The World Para Athletics World Cup (T11/12, T13 and T45/46) set off at 9am but even earlier are the London Marathon Elite Wheelchair Races featuring some of the most decorated athletes in the world.

The competition

Manuela Schär and Amanda McGrory begin the press conference by laughing off the idea that they are rivals. When Tim queries whether this will still be the case when they’re both sprinting for the finish line, neck and neck – they relent that maybe there is a slight rivalry there!

Kurt Fearnley too makes a joke about the competition between them;

Thanks for calling me up onto the stage first – that’s the first time I’ve beat Marcel [Hug]!

The course

The difference between different courses is a big topic of conversation. With most of the athletes present having undertaken the Boston Marathon last weekend, the hills of Boston make an entirely different competition to the flatness of London. When asked whether his size aids him because he picks up more momentum, South Africa’s Ernst Van Dyk says;

Yes – but then I need to drag myself back up the next hill!

The athletes agree that knowing the course well aids them – particularly with London having so many corners, meaning they have to decelerate and accelerate at every corner. This makes it a more tactical race as the athletes can use their knowledge to their advantage.

Marcel is asked whether the speed he can get up to on Boston’s hills (almost 50mph!) is scary to which he responds “Yes! You have to not think about it. You have to turn your brain off.”

And of course, David Weir isn’t getting away without telling us how much he loves the London Marathon.

The London Marathon is what got me out training at the beginning of the year. It’s my motivation. I love the London Marathon – it’s been a part of my life since I was eight years old.

When asked whether he has a favourite part of the course his answer is simple – “the finish”.

Taking part

The wheelchair race at the London Marathon is part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors meaning that the it is a professional race in which the athletes win prize money – as the elite able bodied athletes have done for some time.

When asked about the difference this makes, Kurt says

We spent our lives kicking in doors looking for races, looking for our people. Now we’re part of it; our people are your people.

The press conference is concluded by Ernst who brings the message back to this year being the first Mental Health Marathon and the theme being #ReasontoRun

A healthy body does equal a healthy mind. If you can get out and do it, you will feel better.

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