Ernst van Dyk wrapped up his early season of wheelchair racing with a fifth spot in the London Marathon on Sunday.
Runner-up at the Boston Marathon six days previously, the six-time Paralympian once again had to battle wet conditions which make the going tough for the wheelchair racers, especially the bigger guys like Van Dyk as their grip on the wheels loosen in the moisture.
Race winner was American Joshua George who was timed at 1hr 31min 31sec after outsprinting six-time London winner Dave Weir. Van Dyk ended seven seconds adrift.
Boston marathon winner Marcel Hug was forced out around 16km with a puncture.
‘With Marcel out the dynamics changed a bit,’ Van Dyk told Road to Rio 2016. ‘It was then David against the rest of us and no longer the David and Marcel showdown. After mile 12 there was a big surge over the Tower Bridge and the pack was reduced from around 20 guys to seven. We continued to push the pace but we all stayed together. There were some close moments with guys skidding out in the wet on slippery roads but we were able to keep it together.’
As the front bunch reached the Big Ben landmark with around two kilometres to go, Van Dyk made a strategic move. ‘I went to the front to control the run up to the sprint. It was maybe a bit too early as we were going into a stiff headwind.
Around the second last corner David accelerated around me on the outside and he cut in quickly – he had Frenchman Pierre Fairbank right behind him and when he cut in he clipped my front wheel which almost made me run into the barricades on the inside – I had to adjust my steering to avoid a crash and lost my position in the group I was setting up for the sprint.
‘We came out of the final bend and David and Josh George got up to speed real quick, the rest of us, five of us were bunched very closely in the narrow piece of road they give us for the finish. I came from behind as I had to wind up my sprint after loosing speed and position earlier but I was on track.
‘Fairbank was in fourth place and four of us were busy passing him but I was in the lead. Kota Hokinoue was on my right and Tomasz Hamerlak on my left. Fairbank’s hand hit Kota’s front wheel as we were passing him, this lifted Kota’s chair, flipped him and threw him under my chair. In turn I bumped into Hamerlak which made him tip over.
‘I was able to stay upright. In the mean time when Fairbank hurt his hand Japan’s Masazumi Soejima was able to come right from the back and pass Fairbank right on the line to claim the bronze medal.’
Van Dyk crossed in fifth, five second later. The race doubled up as the IPC world marathon championships and Van Dyk is hopeful that this result will help him book his place at next year’s Rio Paralympics.
‘I think fifth place at world championships gets us a nation’s spot for the marathon for Rio and I hope that SASCOC will see their way clear to select me for the marathon as I would love to compete like I did at the Beijing Paralympics competing in the two handcycling events as well as the wheelchair marathon on the last day of the games.’
Now it’s back to the handcycling season for the big Paarl athlete. ‘Our first competition is in Italy, five weeks from now and my next marathon will be the Chicago Marathon in October after the handcycling season is done.’
Source : South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee