McFadden and Hug to defend Boston marathon titles

Monday’s race will mark the start of the inaugural Abbott World Marathon Majors Wheelchair Series. 17 Apr 2016
Marcel Hug and Tatyana McFadden

Marcel Hug of Switzerland and Tatyana McFadden of the United States

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By Boston Athletic Association

Nine Boston Marathon champions, including defending champions Marcel Hug of Switzerland and Tatyana McFadden of the United States, will be amongst 50 wheelchair racers competing at the 120th Boston Marathon on Monday 18 April.

This year’s Boston Marathon also marks the start of the inaugural Abbott World Marathon Majors Wheelchair Series. Points scored over a rotating calendar season at the Boston, Virgin Money London, Tokyo, BMW Berlin, Bank of America Chicago, and TCS New York City Marathons will determine a male and female champion, each of whom will receive a USD 50,000 winner-take-all bonus.

Defending women’s champion McFadden is seeking her fourth straight Boston Marathon title, and has won every Boston Marathon she has entered. In 2013, she became the first person to win the Boston, London, Chicago, and New York Marathons in the same year, a feat she repeated in 2014 and 2015. In September, McFadden is expected to be one of the stars of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games where she will look to add to her three Paralympic titles.

Also returning to Boston is Japan’s Wakako Tsuchida, a five-time champion on the roads from Hopkinton to Boston. Tsuchida has finished on the podium nine of the 10 times she has raced in Boston. In 2011 she set a course record and world best of 1:34:06, defeating the field by more than six minutes. Tsuchida handed McFadden a rare defeat in March at the Tokyo Marathon.

Switzerland’s Manuela Schaer, third last year, holds this year’s fastest qualifying time of 1:38:42. Schaer finished second to McFadden at London, Chicago, and New York last year. She won Japan’s Oita Marathon in October in 1:40:46, a world best for 2015.

Three more Americans—Shirley Reilly, Chelsea McClammer, and Susannah Scaroni—are podium threats as well. Reilly, the 2012 Boston and London 2012 Paralympic champion, has competed at Boston 10 times. Scaroni, was third last year, and McClammer, McFadden’s Paralympic marathon teammate, train together at the University of Illinois.

Great Britain’s reigning Paralympic marathon silver medallist Shelly Woods and Australian Christie Dawes are also entered.

In the men’s race, six champions - Hug, Ernst van Dyk, Masazumi Soejima, Kota Hokinoue, Hiroyuki Yamamoto, and Josh Cassidy - will all compete for the olive wreath in possibly the deepest elite men’s field ever. With 2016 being a Paralympic year, fast times and course records could be in jeopardy as athletes prepare for the spring and summer racing season ahead.

Hug won the 2015 Boston Marathon by more than seven minutes after finishing fourth the previous two years. Hug holds the fastest qualifying time of 1:21:40, and looks to join Heinz Frei and Franz Nietlispach as multiple-time champions from Switzerland. Hug is coming off a year which saw him finish second at Chicago, win the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon, and take third in New York, in addition to winning Boston.

South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk has the most wins in Boston Marathon history, having claimed 10 titles since 2001. He took second last year and followed it up with a fifth place in London, then finished fourth in Chicago before winning New York. Van Dyk became the first athlete to crack 1:20 for the marathon back in 2004, when he clocked 1:18:27 to win the Boston Marathon.

Canadian Cassidy lowered van Dyk’s Boston Marathon course record to 1:18:25 in 2012. The Japanese trio of Soejima, Hokinoue, and Yamamoto have all broken the tape first in Boston, and look to do so once again this year. Soejima has two wins and a total of six top-three finishes in Boston.

Australia’s Kurt Fearnley has won a plethora of marathons around the world, including races in New York, London, Chicago, and at the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Games. The Boston Marathon title, though, has eluded him: Fearnley finished second in 2011 and 2012. With his build up to his fifth Paralympic Games, this may be the year that Fearnely tops the Boston Marathon podium.

Great Britain’s David Weir, the London 2012 Paralympic Marathon champion, has won six London Marathon titles and will try for the Boston crown this year.

Joshua George, who started racing in Boston as a 19-year-old University of Illinois student in 2003, enters as the top American. After a sixth place finish in Boston last year, he won in London then finished third in Chicago and second in New York.

The men’s wheelchair race will begin at 09:17 EDT followed by the women’s race at 09:19. For the second year in a row, both races will feature a non-controlled start, barring inclement weather.

As Principal Sponsor, John Hancock Financial has provided prize money for the top finishers since 1986. A guaranteed prize purse of USD 84,500 will be split between the top 10 men and women wheelchair finishers. The men’s and women’s winner will each receive USD 20,000.