Fearnley at an Advantage in Christchurch Claims Hug

Swiss 'Silver Bullet' belives Australian Paralympic champion will be at home competing in southern hemisphere. 11 Jan 2011

“I think Kurt has an advantage over the rest of us in terms of jetlag, climate and preparations.”

The Swiss ‘Silver Bullet’, wheelchair racer Marcel Hug, believes his rival Australian Kurt Fearnley could be at an advantage at this month’s IPC Athletics World Championships due to the event being staged in the southern hemisphere for the first time.

More than 1,000 athletes from 70 countries are set to descend on Christchurch, New Zealand later this month and two time Paralympic medal winner Hug, who will go head-to-head with Fearnley in the marathon T54, believes the Australian could benefit from competing in his neighbouring country.

“I think Kurt has an advantage over the rest of us in terms of jetlag, climate and preparations,” Hug told www.paralympic.org, the International Paralympic Committee’s website.

“It will be interesting to see if he will able to use these factors against us, whilst for the rest of us it’s just important to arrive in Christchurch as well prepared as possible.”

The T54 class in men’s athletics is one of the most competitive classes and with Hug taking part in all track events from the 400m through to the marathon he will have many rivals for gold. However, the laid back 26 year old cannot single out too many of his rivals and instead prefers to talk about the mutual respect between athletes.

“I think there are many athletes who are all pretty good and that excites me.” explained Hug. “We all respect each other and get along pretty well.

“I guess David Weir, Kurt Fearnley, and definitely Josh Cassidy are the big competitors, but I’m curious about the Chinese and Asian athletes in general. I haven’t seen any of them perform since Beijing.”

In preparation for taking part in six events at the IPC Athletics World Championships, Hug is training 25 hours a week, spread over six days and covering distances of up to 70km each day.

Marcel Hug said: “I think many factors play a key role in each discipline.

“Starts, stamina and endurance are all important in every race. That’s why I’m not training for only one race at a time, but jointly for every one of them.”

Despite the prospect of taking part in six track events over nine days of competition in Christchurch, Hug is not fazed by what awaits him. In fact he thinks so many races could help him.

“It is a lot of races, especially in one event,” said Hug, :but I’m competitive person and I like to have as many races in a short space of time. It helps me to find my rhythm.

“That’s why it’s not a problem to me as I have good recovery rate, I recover pretty fast.”

Born with spina bifida in January 1986, Hug first got involved in athletics as a 10 year old when a teacher introduced him to a racing wheelchair. After taking part in a number of school races he was soon taking part in national competitions in his home country of Switzerland.

This soon progressed to international races and he first made a name for himself on the world stage when he won two bronze medals in the 800m and 1,500m T54 at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games aged just 18 years.

Two years later he enjoyed more success at the 2006 IPC Athletics World Championships in Assen, the Netherlands where he won gold in the 10,000m as well as silver in the 400m, 800m and 5,000m.

Disappointment followed though at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games where despite being one of the favourites he failed to win a medal, a fact that still bothers him today.

“I always said that it would be my greatest achievement to win a gold medal at the Paralympic Games. If it’s going to be in London than so be it,” said Hug whose role model as a youngster was fellow countryman Franz Nietlispach, a man who has won a staggering 22 Paralympic Games medals including 14 golds.

In Christchurch, Hug will be one of many big name athletes competing along with the likes of South African ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius, Irish Sprinter and ‘Fastest Paralympian on the Planet’ Jason Smyth and American wheelchair racer Jessica Galli.

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