Wheelchair racing specialist Kurt Fearnley has won gold in the T54 marathon at the IPC Athletics World Championships.
Taking to the start line in great form after victory in the Oz Day 10km on Wednesday 26 January 2011, the Paralympic Champion maintained a commanding position in the lead pack across the three 14 kilometre laps, before edging out Swiss world record holder Heinz Frei (second, 1:31:09) and Masazumi Soejima (third, 1:31:10) of Japan in a sprint finish.
Crossing the line in 1:31:09, Fearnley’s gold medal takes the Australian tally to eight and caps off an amazing nine days of competition in the Garden City of Christchurch.
“Kurt’s win today is a fantastic end to a fantastic competition from our 46-strong Australian Team,” said Rohan Short, Australian Team Leader.
“He’s one athlete that our whole team looks up to and to see him race so well in very tough conditions this morning yet again proves his status as without doubt the world’s best.”
Heading into the second lap as part of the lead pack, Fearnley held the silver medal position (split time – 29:40) before moving back to third as the bell lap began (split time – 59:35).
Holding steady with the leaders as the finish line approached, Fearnley made his move in the last 200 metres to join an unbelievable eight other racers in a photo finish.
“I headed to home wanting to stay controlled and calm, I know I am strong and I’d already had a couple of breaks on the boys across the course of the race,” Fearnley said.
“Once I got to the front I made sure there wasn’t anyone there with me, looked to my left, and looked to my right and then just headed for home.”
With British rival and New York Marathon winner David Weir and Canadian Josh Cassidy, the winner of the London Marathon, withdrawing from the race due to safety concerns, Fearnley was disappointed with the course conditions at such an important event.
“We train on the roads all the time, you get used to traffic so that doesn’t bother me.”
“Put me on a gravel road and I’ll still race but I don’t always make the wisest of choices, the point though is that athletes shouldn’t have to make those choices at a World Championships.”
“To see the boys not even line up takes a little bit away from the race before it starts.”
Australia finishes the championships with eight gold, eight silver and seven bronze medals after stand-out performances from both international debutantes and veterans.
Leading the charge was dual gold medallist Kelly Cartwright who smashed the F42 long jump world record for victory before following it up with a second gold in the T42 100m for leg amputees.
Twenty-two year old sprinting sensation Evan O’Hanlon also won two gold medals in the T38 100m and 200m, as well as silver in the 400m and bronze in the T35-38 4x100m relay for athletes with cerebral palsy.
In the field it was Madeleine Hogan who shone, the 22-year-old crowned world champion in the F46 javelin throw for arm amputees, whilst vision impaired six-time Paralympian Russell Short won silver in the F12 shot put.
The IPC Athletics World Championships concluded with the Closing Ceremony on Sunday 30 January 2011, as athletes now shift their attention to an 18 month London Paralympic Games build up.
The 2012 London Paralympic Games commence on 29 August 2012.