Kurt Fearnley has fired a fierce warning shot at his rivals ahead of Sunday’s wheelchair marathon at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships, by claiming a commanding victory in the Oz Day 10km race Sydney.
It extended Fearnley’s winning streak to seven in the annual Australia Day event, but more importantly, showed he is in prime form ahead of the defence of his marathon world championship crown.
Fearnley departs tomorrow for the IPC World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, and said his performance in scorching Australia Day conditions provided a timely confidence boost in what was his first major race since his fourth placed finish in the New York wheelchair marathon last November.
“That was awesome. I’m very happy to win the race again, and especially to race the way I did. I felt strong and it was a great warm-up run for the weekend,” Fearnley said.
“With about six kilometres to go, I tried to make the break but the pack almost pulled me back two or three times. I just put the head down and was able to stay away.”
Fearnley thrilled the vocal Australia Day crowd when he surged to the line in a winning time of 21 minutes and four seconds, defeating Switzerland’s Heinz Frei (21.24) and South Africa’s Ernst Van Dyk (21.35 minutes), who were second and third respectively.
The two-time defending Paralympic marathon champion showed his intentions from the outset by leading into the first corner, and by the halfway stage he had opened a 100 metre gap.
The 29-year-old’s winning time was nine seconds faster than his performance last year, but was well outside his 2008 race record of 20.32.
His intention immediately turns to Sunday’s marathon. Fearnley won the previous IPC World Championship marathon crown in a photo finish in Assen, The Netherlands, in 2006.
“The body is feeling good for Sunday and so is the mind. Everything is where I want it to be,” Fearnley said.
“I’ve been training very hard and now I can’t wait to get over there, settle into the team environment and then get to that start line on Sunday ready to come out all guns blazing.”
In the women’s race today, American Sandi Rush took victory in a time of 30.49 while Australian Sara Tait (34.08) finished second in the field of two.
In the junior race, rising star Declan Young showed the future of Australian wheelchair sport was in safe hands when he posted victory in a time of 27.21
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