Sunday’s (9 October) 34th edition of the Chicago Marathon was selected by the U.S. Paralympics to serve as an automatic qualifier for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
The top two American finishers for both the male and female categories will represent the USA in London next year.
On the women’s side the USA’s Amanda McGrory will seek to defend her title and earn her fourth victory in five years. McGrory captured the silver medal in the Marathon (T54) at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, and her only defeat in the Chicago Marathon in the past five years came at the hands of her University of Illinois teammate Tatyana McFadden in 2009.
McFadden will be at the starting line once again this year, and she has the possibility of qualifying for as many as five events at London 2012 if she wins on Sunday.
McGrory and McFadden will be joined by teammates Anjali Forber-Pratt and Jessica Galli, both Paralympic Games medallists in other events.
Canada’s Diane Roy and Australia’s Christie Dawes could be threats to win as well.
Defending champion Heinz Frei of Switzerland, who finished second in the Berlin Marathon last month, will try to retain his title on the men’s side. In his first appearance in the Marathon last year, he sped to a course record of 1:26:56, breaking the three-year-old mark held by Australia’s Kurt Fearnley, who missed the 2010 competition due to Commonwealth Games commitments after winning the event in 2008 and 2009.
Fearnley will be back on the course on Sunday, where he remains undefeated.
“I’ve scaled back a number of commitments outside of racing over the last few months to concentrate on my training and I’m starting to reap the benefits,” Fearnley told the Australian Paralympic Committee.
“I feel good in the chair, faster than I have been for a while and I’m really looking forward to testing things out against a strong field on Sunday.”
Josh George, Adam Bleakney and Tony Iniguez – the top three finishers for the USA in the Marathon (T54) at the Beijing 2008 Games – will all challenge Frei and Fearnley for the title.
The Chicago Marathon attracts nearly 45,000 participants in the running and wheelchair fields and an estimated 1.7 million spectators. The race will start and finish in Chicago’s Grant Park at 7:30 (CST) Sunday morning.