Defending champions highlight top contenders in 2017 Boston Marathon push rim wheelchair division

BOSTON – Seven Boston Marathon champions, including defending champions Marcel Hug of Switzerland and Tatyana McFadden of the United States, will compete in the push rim wheelchair division of the 121st Boston Marathon, to be held on Monday, April 17. Nearly 60 athletes will compete in the push rim wheelchair division, which starts in Hopkinton before the open race featuring 30,000 runners. The push rim wheelchair men will begin at 9:17 a.m., followed by the women at 9:19 a.m.

A guaranteed prize purse of $84,500 – provided by principal sponsor John Hancock Financial – will be split between the top ten men and women push rim wheelchair finishers. The men’s and women’s winner will each receive $20,000.

This year’s Boston Marathon also marks the conclusion of the inaugural Abbott World Marathon Majors Wheelchair Series. Points scored over a rotating calendar season at the Boston, Virgin Money London, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, BMW Berlin, Bank of America Chicago, and TCS New York City Marathons will determine a male and female champion, each of whom will receive a $50,000 winner-take-all bonus. Both Hug and McFadden lead the inaugural Abbott World Marathon Majors Wheelchair Series by sizable margins.

A native of Maryland, McFadden seeks to become only the third woman in Boston Marathon history to win five straight Boston Marathon titles. A 17-time Paralympic medalist, McFadden has won every Boston Marathon she’s entered, sweeping victories from 2013 through 2016. She currently leads the Abbott World Marathon Majors Wheelchair Series with 116 points after wins in Boston, London, Chicago, New York, and a runner-up finish at the Paralympics.

Also returning to Boston is Switzerland’s Manuela Schar, runner-up last year. Schar hopes to become the fifth Boston Marathon wheelchair champion to hail from Switzerland. Three more Americans - Shirley Reilly, Chelsea McClammer, and Susannah Scaroni - will vie for the podium. Reilly, the 2012 Boston and Paralympic champion, has competed at the Boston Marathon eleven times.

Australian Christie Dawes and Canadian Diane Roy will return to Boston, as well as Acton, Mass. native Katrina Gerhard. Gerhard placed tenth in 2016 and is a student at the University of Illinois. Great Britain’s Jade Jones will make her Boston debut.

The men’s race features many familiar faces, including five champions: Hug, Ernst van Dyk, Masazumi Soejima, Hiroyuki Yamamoto, and Joshua Cassidy. In 2016, Hug, van Dyk, and Fearnley finished one-two-three in a thrilling sprint for the line on Boylston Street, all recording the same finishing time of 1:24:06. Hug won by the slightest of margins to earn his second consecutive title.

Hug also won the 2015 Boston Marathon by more than seven minutes, and is the overwhelming leader in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Wheelchair series standings. Hug has not lost in the last year, winning Boston, London, the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, Chicago, and New York. He has already locked up this year’s Abbott World Marathon Majors Wheelchair series crown.

South Africa’s van Dyk is the most decorated athlete in Boston Marathon history, having claimed ten titles since 2001. Van Dyk took second in 2015 and 2016 and is always in the hunt for the title. No elite athlete in the entire race has more experience on the roads from Hopkinton to Boston than van Dyk.

Cassidy, a Canadian, bettered van Dyk’s Boston Marathon course record when he clocked 1:18:25 in 2012. The Japanese trio of Soejima, Yamamoto, and Kota Hokinoue have all raced well in Boston, with Soejima claiming two wins and six podium finishes.

Australia’s Fearnley, the course record holder at the TCS New York City Marathon, will aim for his first Boston Marathon crown after coming up just short a year ago. James Senbeta enters as the top returning American after finishing fifth a year ago in 1:26:19.

Joshua George and Aaron Pike also represent the U.S.A. contingent in this year’s field.

For the third year in a row, both the men’s and women’s wheelchair races will feature a non-controlled start.

Men's Elite Push-Rim Wheelchair Field Country Adam Bleakney USA Rafael Botello Jimenez Spain Josh Cassidy* Canada Kurt Fearnley Australia Joshua George USA Kota Hokinoue Japan Marcel Hug* Switerland Simon Lawson Great Britain Denis Lemeunier Canada Jordi Madera Spain Raymond Martin USA Hiroki Nishida Japan Aaron Pike USA Daniel Romanchuk USA Santiago Sanz USA James Senbeta USA Brian Siemann USA Masazumi Soejima* Japan Ernst van Dyk* South Africa Hiroyuki Yamamoto* Japan Ryota Yoshida Japan

Women's Elite Push-Rim Wheelchair Field Country Christie Dawes Australia Katrina Gerhard USA Jade Jones Great Britain Chelsea McClammer USA Tatyana McFadden* USA Amanda McGrory USA Jill Moore USA Arielle Rausin USA Shirley Reilly* USA Diane Roy Canada Susannah Scaroni USA Manuela Schar Switzerland Margriet van den Broek Netherlands

*Indicates previous Boston Marathon champion