London 2012 was great for wheelchair racing, says Jones

All the sport needed was to be showcased, says Paralympian Jade Jones who set a course record on her way to victory at the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon on Sunday

Jade Jones Mini London Marathon 2013 (Mark Shearman)

Jade Jones added a fourth win at the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon to her growing list of recent victories on Sunday, as she dominated the under-17 women’s wheelchair race to successfully defend her title, setting a course record in the process.

The 17-year-old Tanni Grey-Thompson-coached athlete crossed the line in 12:39, taking an impressive 20 seconds off her previous course record to finish ahead of under-17 men’s winner Will Smith and claim the 2013 title.

Jones, who recently won the women’s senior race at the Silverstone adidas half marathon and competed over 400m, 800m and 1500m at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, wasn’t alone in her course record feat. Defending champion Charlotte Moore also smashed her previous course record on her way to under-14 girl’s victory and Issac Towers bettered the previous mark set in 2011 on his way to winning the boy’s result.

This, Jones says, helps to prove how wheelchair racing is growing as a sport, with the London 2012 Paralympic Games having been the perfect way to showcase it.

As we discuss how wheelchair racing has grown in recent years, inevitably our conversation turns to six-time Paralympic champion David Weir, who was denied a record seventh senior London Marathon victory on Sunday.

“What David did in London last year was unbelievable,” commented Jones. “The whole country was behind him. Since then so many people have tried different sports.

“There’s so many new people coming through and that’s great for wheelchair racing.

“It’s such a good sport, you just need to showcase that. That’s all it needed and I think London 2012 did that for the sport.”

Jones was joined in London by last year’s under-17 men’s runner-up and multiple world junior champion Smith who is trained by Weir and his long-term coach Jenny Archer.

Smith, who is part of the Weir Archer Academy, stormed to success over the last three miles of the main marathon course and said that having the support of the Academy had been invaluable to his development.

“To be able to work with Jenny and Dave, there’s no one better, really,” said Smith. “To have that personal experience and relationship with David is fantastic. He’s been there and done it all so he knows what it’s like, he knows what it takes and all the little things that make the difference.”

Smith’s success wasn’t shared by Weir who was unable to claim a record seventh London Marathon win in a race that was won by Australian Kurt Fearnley and saw a collision occur between Josh Cassidy, the world’s fastest wheelchair racer, and Olympic champion Tiki Gelana next to a feeding station.

London Marathon organisers later descibed it as “a racing incident which happened in the midst of two fiercely contested battles between some of the best marathon competitors in the world”, adding that both athletes have accepted that it was an accident.

Speaking afterwards, Cassidy said: “With wheelchair racers and elite women on the road at the same time, and our fields getting bigger, this sort of accident can happen.”

Reports following the event indicated that the start times may be reviewed by event organisers in order to prevent anything like this happening again in the future. Tweeting after the race, Cassidy said: “The wheelchairs MUST finally start first next year so this doesn’t happen again, or worse.”

In other London Marathon news, Monday saw event organisers announce a five year extension to its sponsorship deal with Virgin Money. The banking division of the Virgin Group of companies will continue as London Marathon sponsor until at least 2017, with the race changing its name from the Virgin London Marathon to the Virgin Money London Marathon from 2014.

» See this week’s issue of AW, out Thursday April 25, for in-depth coverage from all of Sunday’s Virgin London Marathon and Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon races

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