Hug strikes Rio gold to make it three out of three as Zou outsprints McFadden

Marcel Hug struck gold at the Rio Paralympic Games on Sunday Sept. 18 to maintain his 100 percent record in the Abbott World Marathon Majors wheelchair series as Tatyana McFadden was outsprinted by Zou Lihong in the women's race.

Swiss star Hug turned London 2012 silver into Rio gold as he triumphed in a two-way battle with Australia's Kurt Fearnley while McFadden missed out on her fifth gold of the 2016 Games when she was pipped to the line by China's Zou as both broke the Paralympic record.

Hug and McFadden dominated the first two races of the inaugural worldwide wheelchair marathon contest, winning twice in the space of six days at the Boston Marathon and the Virgin Money London Marathon this April.

In Rio they both tightened their grip on the US $50,000 prize money, Hug adding another 25 points to his total while McFadden improved her tally by 16.

Hug now has 75 points and leads the men's standings by 34 from Fearnley who claimed another 16 for his Rio silver after finishing third in Boston and second in London. South Africa's Ernst van Dyk still lies third despite finishing out of the points in sixth.

Kim Gyu Dae took bronze for South Korea and is now fifth overall behind Britain's David Weir who dropped out of the race when he was knocked from his chair on the first of the five circuits.

Despite her defeat, McFadden stretched her standings lead over the women's field as second-placed Manuela Schär of Switzerland failed to score, placing sixth.

After finishing fifth in London on her marathon debut, Zou's shock victory over the American who has dominated the event for the past four years means she moves up to third overall ahead of Japan's Wakako Tsuchida.

McFadden's US teammate Amanda McGrory slipped from fourth to fifth despite bagging bronze just ahead of Tsuchida in a thrilling eight-way sprint for the line.

The brutal humid conditions of well over 30 degrees may have been ideal for sun worshippers on the nearby Copacabana Beach, but they were exhausting for marathon racers.

Not that the searing temperatures seemed to hinder Hug and Fearnley who opened an early lead just after the 5km point, shortly before Weir's title defence came to a sudden and bruising end.

The Briton, a quadruple gold medallist from London 2012, was at the back of the chasing pack when he crashed to the track, ending his last chance of a medal at his final Games.

Meanwhile, Hug and Fearnley powered on at the front. By half way their lead was two minutes and they continued to stretch away over the second half. Neither could break clear over the last few kilometres and the race for gold boiled down to a two-way sprint for the line.

It was Hug who attacked first and although Fearnley moved out to respond the man they call the Silver Bullet pulled the trigger to win by one second in 1:26:16.
Kim rolled in nearly four minutes later to take the battle for bronze in 1:30:08.

The women's race was much closer, with eight together as they approached the final stretch, led by McFadden. But the woman who has won all but one of her Abbott World Marathon Majors races since the start of 2013 came up just short with the biggest prize of all at stake.

McFadden has won gold at 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m in Rio, but it was Zou who edged ahead on the marathon finish line as both clocked 1:38:44, more than a minute inside the Paralympic record and just 37 seconds outside the world record.

McGrory and Tsuchida were only one second behind in third and fourth, while just three seconds separated the top seven.

The Abbott World Marathon Majors Wheelchair Series now moves on to the BMW BERLIN MARATHON Sunday, Sept. 25, with the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the TCS New York City Marathon to come over the next few weeks.