Tsuchida, Soejima capture wheelchair crowns in 115th Boston Marathon
Though the spotlight shone most brightly on Geoffrey Mutai and those who chased him across the line, the three-man sprint to the finish in the men’s wheelchair race could never be overlooked. With South Africa’s Ernst Van Dyk going for his 10th Boston win, there was all kinds of emotion, not to mention a $15,000 first place prize, on the line.
Sentimentality meant little to Kurt Fearnley (AUS) and Masazumi Soejima (JPN), who chased down the defending champ at 30K and engaged him in an epic tussle all the way down Boylston Street to the line. Passing beneath the clock, a single second separated all three; but, it was Soejima who took the crown (1:18:50), with Fearnley taking second in 1:18:51 and Van Dyk third on the same time.
Commented the winner, “At the end, I was thinking that until my hands start bleeding or my heart stops I wasn’t going to stop.”
If one were looking for a quote to encapsulate the spirit of the day, that may be it. An inspiring sentiment on a day when inspiring performances were the norm.
Leading from wire to wire, four-time defending wheelchair champion Wakako Tsuchida of Japan made it five in a row when she crushed the field, setting a world record with her winning time of 1:30:21.
“I definitely didn’t want to look back once,” said the 36-year-old, who was competing here for the seventh time and has become a favorite with her ever-present smile.
Helped along by a tailwind, Tsuchida’s mark broke the previous world record of Jean Driscoll, 1:34:22, set on this course in 1994. It’s been quite a racing stretch for the Japanese superstar, who won marathons in London, Berlin and Honolulu last year. But it’s also been a time of sorrow as her nation copes with the tragedy of the recent earthquake and tsunami, and Tsuchida said even before the race that she hoped her performance could bring the country some joy.
“For most of the race, the wind was behind us,” said runner-up Shirley Reilly, who attends the University of Arizona and finished in 1:41:01. “Wakako obviously tore it up!” The third-place finisher, American Christina Ripp, agreed. “At one point I looked at Shirley and said, ‘Wakako’s fast. I haven’t seen her since the start.’’’