Ernst Van Dyk and Manuela Schär to defend NYC Half titles in March

The South African and Swiss racers will headline a strong field on Sunday 20 March. 29 Feb 2016
Manuela Schär and Ernst Van Dyk

Manuela Schär and Ernst Van Dyk

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“I am very excited to return to New York City and race in the United Airlines NYC Half. It's going to be a tough race in a very important year.”

The defending champions and event-record holders, South Africa’s Ernst Van Dyk and Switzerland’s Manuela Schär, will headline a strong wheelchair racing field at the 2016 United Airlines NYC Half on Sunday 20 March.

The pair will be joined by US racing sensation and 11-time Paralympic medallist Tatyana McFadden, who will look to better her third-place performance from the 2015 United Airlines NYC Half.

“To have both United Airlines NYC Half defending champions return to the world-famous streets of New York City to defend their titles is a true testament to the strength of the event’s growing wheelchair racing field,” said Peter Ciaccia, President of events for New York Road Runners and race director of the TCS New York City Marathon. “Ernst is a standout in the wheelchair racing world and is coming off a year highlighted by his victory in the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon. Manuela has established herself as a top contender since taking up long-distance racing in 2013, having beaten Tatyana McFadden in last year’s United Airlines NYC Half. We are thrilled to be able to support the sport of wheelchair racing and look forward to welcoming all our athletes.”

Van Dyk, 42, lowered the NYC Half course record to 48:54 with his victory last year. He also won the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon by one second, clocking the second-fastest time in event history (1:30:54). It was his second New York City Marathon win; he previously won in 2005. The father of two daughters has won the Boston Marathon a record 10 times, including six consecutive victories from 2001 to 2006 and had a brilliant comeback victory in 2014. He has represented South Africa in every Paralympics since 1992, winning a bronze medal in the marathon at the2008 Beijing Paralympics.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back this year and racing with some great Americans,” Van Dyk said. “It's an important year with the marathon majors kicking off and the half presents an excellent opportunity to gauge my fitness as well as see where the other guys are. It's a fantastic event that is run like clockwork by the NYRR and I'm excited to see where this event will grow in the future, especially in the pro wheelchair division.”

Schär, 30, won the 2015 NYC Half in her debut at the event in 54:38. A month later, she finished second at the Virgin Money London Marathon, which also served as the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships Marathon. Last fall, she placed second at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon before becoming the second-fastest woman of all-time at the TCS New York City Marathon (1:44:57) with another second-place finish.

“I am very excited to return to New York City and race in the United Airlines NYC Half,” Schär said. “It's going to be a tough race in a very important year.”

McFadden, 26, is one of the most accomplished athletes in the world over the past decade, having recently completed an unprecedented third-straight Grand Slam sweep of the London, Boston, Chicago and New York City marathons in a single year. She capped off her 12th-consecutive major marathon victory with an event record, lowering the New York standard by seven minutes and 20 seconds with a time of 1:43:04. Nicknamed “The Beast,” she has won 11 Paralympic medals (three gold, five silver, three bronze), with one of those silver medals coming in the one-kilometer cross-country skiing sitting race at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

“I can't wait to race through the streets of New York City again,” McFadden said. “Last year was my first United Airlines NYC Half and it was really challenging. I'm hoping for a better place this time around. I'm also so excited to be out there for NYRR's Team for Kids. It’s such a great way to support the future.”

This year’s wheelchair division represents four countries, and features 12 Paralympians and four IPC Athletics world champions. It will be the third time the wheelchair division is contested at the United Airlines NYC Half since its inaugural running in 2014. Competitors will vie for a USD 15,000 prize purse, the world’s largest professional wheelchair athlete prize purse for a half marathon.