Double victory for Britain
For the first time since 2002, Britain produced the winners of both the Flora London Wheelchair Marathon races as David Weir retained his men's title and 20-year-old Shelly Woods lived up to the potential she had shown as a teenager to easily beat the world record holder and four-time champion Francesca Porcellato of Italy in the women's race.
After crossing the line, Woods said: �"I didn't want a sprint finish so I took the lead after just 400 metres and just pushed on, but it was tough on my own."
Until today Woods said she didn't know what her best event was but now feels she is a marathon racer. Woods's winning time of 1:50:40 is the second fastest ever achieved on the London course, just one minute 31 seconds outside the course record set by Sweden's Monica Wetterstrom in 1997.
Porcellato took second spot more than nine minutes behind the dynamic Woods. �"I would now like to take part in the Bejing Paralympics at the marathon and 1500m and 5000m on the track," said the Italian.
Any challenge expected from Deborah Johnson was thwarted when she fell out of her chair early in the race and suffered facial lacerations.
After the first few miles the leading group in the men's race included all the likely winners including last year's winner David Weir, the Paralympic champion Kurt Fearnley of Australia, the Mexican athlete of the 20th century, Saul Mendoza, South Africa's Ernst Van Dyk, and the Japanese London debutant Choke Yasuoka. Any chance of victory for eight times Seville Marathon champion Roger Puigbo Verdauger disappeared early when he had a puncture.
Weir and Fearnley soon moved ahead of the field, displaying their competitive attitude as well as respect for each other with lots of eye contact. They went through half way in 43:10 and the pair were more than one minute 27 seconds ahead of their rivals.
�"When we reached Big Ben together I turned to Kurt shook his hand and said �Well done, great race'," said Weir.
Weir's tactics were spot on as both athletes slowed the pace until they turned in front of a vociferous crowd in the last 300 metres before the finish This was when Weir unleashed his phenomenal finishing sprint to beat the Australian by just one second, recording his third victory in London.
He crossed the line in 1:30:49, the second fastest time on the course. �"At fifteen miles, we were flying at 18 miles per hour, but it was a tactical race today and I got it right," he said.
Fearnley was disappointed to lose the first of eight marathons he has raced since October, but he paid respect to his conqueror and appreciated the crowd support.
There was a battle for the bronze medal between Mendoza and Van Dyk which was won by Mendoza, the winner in 2004 and 2005. The Mexican prevailed in a massive sprint finish with both athletes achieving the same time of 1:33:46. Yasuoka was fifth in 1:33:50, followed by the 20-year-old Briton Brian Alldis with a time of 1:44:31. Others inside two hours were Mark Telford and Andrew Cheek with respective times of 1:54:18 and 1:58:14.
MINI WHEELCHAIR MARATHON
The overall winner of the Mini Wheelchair Marathon was Aiden Clarke of Essex in 14 minutes 11 seconds, followed by Daniel Lucker from Wales, sixteen seconds behind and beating James Newton from Norfolk by just one second.
The under 13 section was won by Jack Binstead from Surrey in 18 minutes 27 seconds, with Daniel Cook from Dorset second in 20 minutes18.
Louise Hunt from Swindon was the first girl to finish in 15 minutes 42 seconds with Rebecca Harding of London the runner up in 17 minutes 28. The under-13 winner was Collette Martin from Motherwell, Scotland, with 18 minutes 37 seconds.