Athletics: Marathon preview

Copacabana will provide the spectacular backdrop for five races over the marathon distance to complete the Para athletics programme in Rio. 18 Sep 2016
Morocco's El Amin Chentouf wins the 2013 IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup

Morocco's El Amin Chentouf wins the 2013 IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup


Marathon races round off the Para athletics competition at Rio 2016 on Sunday (18 September), with five gold medals up for grabs at Fort Copacabana.

The races for visually impaired and ambulant athletes set off first at 09:00, then the men’s and women’s wheelchair races follow at 12:30.

The men’s marathon T12 features 11 runners, including Morocco’s El Amin Chentouf, the world record holder. Chentouf is aiming for his first Rio 2016 title, having already won silver over 5,000m here on Thursday (15 September).

The 35-year-old has plenty of marathon experience – and success – under his belt, having finished first at the 2013 World Championships in Lyon, France, and again at the IPC Athletics Marathon World Championships last year in London, England.

It was Chentouf’s third victory on the streets of the English capital, having won the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup in 2013 and 2014.

Also lining up is Spain’s reigning Paralympic marathon T12 champion Alberto Suarez Laso and Colombia’s Elkin Serna Moreno, who won silver at London 2012 and at Beijing 2008, so competition will be tough.

The men’s marathon T46 features the likes of China’s Chaoyan Li, the fastest in the world this year, as well as London 2012 silver medallist Abderrahman Ait Khamouch of Spain, the current world record holder and the world champion last year in London.

Seven Para athletes line up in the women’s T12 race, including China’s Jin Zheng, who smashed the women’s marathon T11 world record at the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup in London this year.

The men’s T54 wheelchair race is, as always, bursting with talent. Australia’s Kurt Fearnley won the Paralympic title at Athens 2004 and again at Beijing 2008. He has won two world championship titles too and is a phenomenal talent in wheelchair distance racing.

Then there is the reigning champion, Great Britain’s David Weir. The 37-year-old has failed to medal so far at Rio 2016 and announced his retirement from the track after the men’s 800m T54 on Thursday (15 September). Returning home to see his new-born son with a medal in his pocket would be a fitting end to a distinguished Paralympic career.

Switzerland’s Marcel Hug is chasing his second Paralympic title, having won the 800m T54 already at Rio 2016. The 30-year-old finished second behind Weir four years ago, then won the world title in 2013. He has already tasted marathon victory this year, winning in London, England, and in Boston, USA.

Watch out too for South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk, who has already won gold out on the roads at Rio 2016 – in cycling, and Japan’s Hiroyuki Yamamoto, whose sole event at Rio 2016 is the marathon.

The women’s T54 starts at 12:31 and all eyes will be on the USA’s Tatyana McFadden, who is aiming for a fifth gold medal at Rio 2016. The 27-year-old dominates women’s wheelchair marathon racing and won her fourth consecutive London marathon title this year.

McFadden has won the grand slam of Boston, London, Chicago and New York for the last three years – although she has yet to win a marathon Paralympic title, having suffered a puncture at London 2012. That mantle goes to her teammate Shirley Reilly, winner at London 2012, who also starts. Watch out too for Swiss former world champion Manuela Schaer and Japan’s Wakako Tsuchida, bronze medallist at Sydney 2000, silver medallist at Athens 2004, and world champion in 2011.