Unbeaten Hug eyes Majors victory as wheelchair series resumes in Berlin
Unbeaten leader Marcel Hug will be looking to extend his hold over the Abbott World Marathon Majors Wheelchair standings when the global series for elite marathon racers resumes at the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON this Sunday Sept. 25.
Hug has chalked up three wins from three races so far in Series X, which started at the 2016 Boston Marathon, and will contest all three of the upcoming autumn Majors in Berlin, Chicago and New York over the next six weeks.
The Swiss star, nicknamed the Silver Bullet because of his gleaming helmet, has been in golden form over the last five months. In Boston he beat South Africa's Ernst van Dyk and Australian Kurt Fearnley to the 25 winner's points in a three-way blanket finish before outpacing Fearnley and Britain's six-times winner David Weir at the Virgin Money London Marathon six days later.
Unbowed by expectations, he then powered away from Fearnley to take Paralympic gold in Rio last Sunday after the pair had pushed together for 35km in the sapping heat alongside Copacabana Beach.
He now sits 34 points clear of the Australian on top of the men's leaderboard with 75 points to his name. With each racer's top five results from the eight events of the 12-month Series' to count, Hug could seal overall victory in the next two weeks with wins in Berlin and Chicago.
Van Dyk will try to knock him off his perch in Berlin. The current New York champion is currently third on the leaderboard with 20 points and could leap above Fearnley into second if he can pinch victory in the German capital.
World record holder Heinz Frei, who‘s yet to score in Series X, is also in the Berlin field and could make an impact in the race where he has held the course record for 19 years.
Fearnley returns to the fray in Chicago October 9 where the top three go wheel-to-wheel once more. They will be joined by South Korea's Kim Gyu Dae who moved into fifth place by clinching Paralympic bronze last weekend, and James Senbeta, the American who has two points from fifth place finishes in Boston and London.
Fourth-placed Weir, who was forced to abandon his title defense after crashing in Rio, will be aiming to get back among the points at the TCS New York City Marathon November 6 where all of the top five will be on the start line.
Hug's compatriot Manuela Schär will also have her eyes on the leaderboard in Berlin where she could close the gap on Tatyana McFadden in the women's standings to just nine points.
Schär finished second behind the dominant American in Boston and London but was out of the points in Rio where she placed sixth. Victory for Schär in Berlin, where she faces fellow Swiss Sandra Graf and Margriet van den Broek of the Netherlands, would put pressure on McFadden before the pair face each other again in Chicago and New York.
McFadden relinquished her 100 percent record in Rio when she was beaten to gold by Zou Lihong, the Chinese racer getting the verdict by a fraction of a second after a photo finish.
McFadden still tops the leaderboard with 66 points from three races, 34 clear of Schär with Zou now third on 26.
Zou's absence from the autumn races gives Japanese veteran Wakako Tsuchida and McFadden's teammate Amanda McGrory a chance to move up the rankings.
Tsuchida lies fourth on 22 points after finishing third in Boston and London, and fourth in Rio. She misses Berlin and Chicago but will aim to be among the points again in New York.
McGrory is fifth with 14 points and will be in the hunt at the two US events, as will fellow American Susannah Scaroni who lies sixth on four points.