WHEELCHAIR STARS CONTINUE EPIC SEASON
For the stars of the AbbottWMM elite wheelchair series, London is the second stop on a whirlwind tour of the Majors this fall.
No sooner has the BMW BERLIN MARATHON appeared in their rear-view mirror than the Virgin Money London Marathon is upon them.
Both Marcel Hug and Manuela Schär were victorious in the German capital, and both now take aim at another moment of triumph on The Mall.
Hug won here last year while Schär suffered in the cold and lost to Dutch athlete Nikita den Boer, her first reverse after a string of 10 victories that encompassed the entire race card of the previous AbbottWMM Series.
Schär's fifth straight victory in Berlin all but assured her of a third consecutive AbbottWMM Series title while Hug's win, which was bolstered by claiming eight bonus points for being first to the intermediate bonus point late in the race, means he has closed the gap on leader Daniel Romanchuk.
Both men are scheduled to take on all five Majors in this one-off, concertinaed season, so it's all to play for as Hug seeks to regain the Series crown he lost to the young American in 2019.
"It really hasn't happened before," said Romanchuk of the calendar he and Hug face. After London, the pair will compete in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and fly straight to Boston that night to line up on the start in Hopkinton the very next day.
"The closest that races have been together has been a week. So it'll be a case of trying to refuel, getting as much sleep as I can and just see what happens."
Hug, who also beat Romanchuk in the Paralympic marathon before winning in Berlin, was praised by long-time adversary and home favorite in London, David Weir, as he looked ahead to his 23rd consecutive appearance in his native city.
"Daniel and Marcel are another level, from another universe, at the moment," he said.
"So it's going to be tough on Sunday but that's why I'm here. I like challenges, and I've got to push myself - and I love pushing myself to the limit.
"Marcel's got a Ferrari of a chair. I don't really want to take it away from Marcel because he's a fantastic athlete and he'd probably have won a shedload of medals in Tokyo anyway, but with his performances you can see he's got extra gains from that chair.
"Daniel's still learning, he's got amazing talent, speed and endurance and I feel, with time, he's going to be in front of a lot of people."
In the women's race, Schär and McFadden face each other in a rivalry that was once dominated by the American. Since late 2017, Schär has had the upper hand on the decorated Paralympian but there were signs in Berlin that McFadden, who endured a long recovery after blood clots in 2017, could be narrowing the margin between herself and the current champion.
"I felt like I started racing like myself in Berlin, and that makes me really happy. So I'm looking forward to a great race on Sunday. It's just great being back doing what I love."
"I learned a lot from Berlin and can hopefully use it in London - hopefully the weather will be OK, but I would have to change strategy if it's going to be raining really, really heavily and see what I can do. I'm not the strongest in the rain."
Schär added: "In Berlin, I knew I missed marathon racing, but I didn't realise how much. It was so amazing to be back in this marathon feeling where the whole city is in this marathon mood. It was so good to be back and I'm so excited for this Sunday to feel that energy again."
McFadden is also taking on all five Majors while Schär will afford herself next Sunday off before racing in Boston.