David Weir’s final Paralympic Games ends in disappointment as the reigning T54 marathon champion is forced to withdraw following a collision
The ‘Swiss Silver Bullet’ gained another gold on Sunday as Marcel Hug won a second Paralympic title with victory in the T54 marathon, while China’s Lihong Zou denied USA’s Tatyana McFadden a fifth gold in Rio as the women’s race came down to a photo finish.
Hug had the stronger sprint in hot and humid conditions and the seven-time world champion beat Australia’s Kurt Fearnley 1:26:16 to 1:26:17, while Kim Gyu Dae won the battle for bronze. Behind Zou and McFadden, who both clocked a Paralympic record-breaking 1:38:44, bronze was claimed by USA’s Amanda McGrory.
Hug’s marathon win followed the 30-year-old’s success over 800m on the track but there was disappointment for the London 2012 champion in both of those events – Britain’s David Weir – as the six-time Paralympic gold medallist crashed out of the competition.
Part of the lead group at 5km, Weir later explained how his wheelchair was clipped and his shoulder hit the ground following the collision. Weir’s chair was also damaged which forced him to withdraw from his final race in the 37-year-old’s last ever Paralympics.
“Everything felt good to be honest,” said Weir, who was racing in his fifth event of the Rio Games after finishing fourth in the 1500m, fifth in the 400m and sixth in the 800m as well as forming part of the GB T53/54 4x400m relay team. “I know they (Hug and Fearnley) made a gap but I thought we would close it down. I just needed a breather at the back and then I was going to push on.
“My shoulder is a bit sore where I fell on it but that’s just racing,” added the six-time London Marathon winner, who had posted an emotional message on Twitter a couple of days before his last race in Rio in which Weir apologised for what he described as a “terrible” performance in Brazil.
“It’s been a tough week, maybe it was a Paralympics too far,” continued Weir, who missed the birth of his fourth child, son Lenny, to compete at the Games. “I’m looking forward to getting back and seeing my family.”
The men’s race had seen Hug and Fearnley break away early on and the pair had built up a lead of more than 20 seconds by the 10km mark. That advantage had grown to two minutes by the half-way point and they eventually finished almost four minutes clear of the chasing pack which was led by Kim, who crossed the finish line in 1:30:08 just ahead of China’s Liu Chengming and Thailand’s Prawat Wahoram.
Simon Lawson placed 14th in 1:32:15 and although disappointed, the Briton enjoyed the experience. “It was an amazing experience obviously to race in a Paralympic marathon along Copacabana beach,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed with the outcome though, unfortunately.
“You try things out in training and nothing goes wrong for months but sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.”
After getting gold medals in the 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m plus a silver in the 100m, McFadden claimed her sixth medal of these Games and her 15th Paralympic medal of her career so far as she crossed the line level with Zou after an eight-strong pack remained all the way to the finish. McGrory clocked 1:38:45, the same time as Japan’s Wakako Tsuchida in fourth.
Like his British team-mate Weir, there was also disappointment for Derek Rae as he withdrew from the earlier T46 marathon event. Fifth at 25km, the 30-year-old, who runs with his right arm in a sling, dropped out before the 30km mark. That race was won by China’s Chaoyan Li in 2:33:35 from Spain’s Abderrahman Ait Khamouch, who matched his medal colour in this event from London and the 1500m from Beijing after running 2:37:01. Bronze went to Portugal’s Manuel Mendes.
Morocco’s world record-holder El Amin Chentouf won the men’s T12 event for visually impaired runners in a time of 2:32:17 from Spain’s Alberto Suárez Laso with 2:33:11. Masahiro Okamura claimed bronze to lead a Japan 3-4-5.
Women’s T12 marathon gold was won by Spain’s Elena Congost in 3:01:43 ahead of Japan’s Misato Michishita with 3:06:52 and Brazil’s Edneusa de Jesus Santos Dorta with 3:18:38.
Full results can be found here.
» See the September 22 issue of Athletics Weekly magazine for full reports, results and photographs