Manuela Schär wrote herself into the history books at the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON with a world record-setting performance.
The defending AbbottWMM Series champion stopped the clock at 1:36:53 to set her new mark, claiming a fourth Berlin title and beginning her new campaign in fine style.
Schär was also the first athlete across the line for the sprint bonus competition, a new innovation for the wheelchair series. The Swiss star plundered the eight points that came with that at the 38km mark of the course, by which time she was well clear of her rivals.
The first half of the contest was a duel between Schär and America’s Susannah Scaroni. The University of Illinois athlete has spent part of the summer living and training with the champion at her Notwill base outside Zurich, and it seemed for the first 13.1 miles as though Schär could have let too many tricks of her trade slip.
But the 33-year-old upped the gas after halfway, and a gap was already evident by the 25km point. Schär, who never uses so much as a speedometer on her chair but prefers to race on her own instincts, was right to trust them.
The familiar sight of her chair flying through the Brandenburg Gate with no one else in view was confirmation that a summer spent smashing records on the track and putting herself through a punishing training schedule had paid off.
“It was really important to me to be able to start [Series XII] with a win,” said Schär. “I was a little bit nervous and I put a little bit of pressure on myself. I wanted to do good here for the mental side of things, to be able to come into Chicago and New York, so I’m really happy.”
Scaroni was second in 1:41:44, collecting 16 points and completing her tour of the six AbbottWMM races to earn her Six Star Medal. Schär’s compatriot Sandra Graf rounded out the podium.
After a training mishap during the week, Scaroni’s fellow American Tatyana McFadden had to make do with a racing chair supplied by Men’s Series XI champion Marcel Hug, and could only manage ninth, but also collecting her Six Star Medal.
Hug’s generosity was not rewarded with victory in a race he has won six times. He was beaten by relative newcomer to marathons, Canadian Brent Lakatos.
Lakatos, in only his third outing at the distance, showed his muscle with a hotly contested win at the 38km sprint bonus point, and had enough in the tank to edge the legendary Swiss into second place by just three seconds with a winning time of 1:29:41. The four-time Paralympian has broken records and won countless medals on the track, but admitted that this winning start to AbbottWMM Series XII has focused his mind on 26.2 miles for now.
"I will definitely be doing more marathons," he said, adding that the addition of the sprint competition had spiced things up for the men's race: "People know it's coming and it's worth points, so some people started making attacks and jostling for position. It was a mini-race within the race. It was fun!"
Johnboy Smith of Great Britain placed third on the same time as Hug of 1:29:44.