Contenders for the wheelchair titles at the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon have their say
MANUELA SCHAR (SUI)
On her Berlin Marathon victory:
“It feels great. I didn’t quite know what my form would be like after Tokyo [Paralympics] but it was great to see that I actually had enough time to recover.
“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.”
On the wheelchair racers’ busy schedule:
“Yes, it continues to be busy. After London, I go back back home for two days, then I’ll fly to Boston and New York will be my last one.
“The most difficult thing is all the travelling and time differences and different food, so you just have to be careful to not do too much and make sure you recover for the next one.”
On returning to her very best:
“It wasn’t easy not racing for two years almost, so there’s always pressure to come back as strong as I left. Berlin last weekend gave me that confidence and I’m optimistic that I can finish [the Abbott series] as strong as I did in 2019.”
On new technology in wheelchair racing:
“I think it’s very important that we have the technology that every other sport has. I think logical that every sport is moving forward and so is wheelchair racing.”
DAVID WEIR (GB)
On his 22 consecutive London Marathons:
“I just love the race. It’s where I started as an eight-year-old doing the mini marathons. I don’t think there’s anyone else who’s done 22 marathons in a row, so I’m pretty proud to be here.
“I’ve been lucky with injuries and stuff like that. I’m just motivated. I’m probably at the back-end of my career at the moment, but I just love doing the marathons. I just keep plodding along until I feel I can’t do any more!”
On his future:
“How many marathons am I going to do next? I don’t want to put a label on it, to be honest. I’m just enjoying travelling, doing the marathons. I’m actually enjoying life at the moment – so I’ll carry on until I feel I need to pack it in.”
On his rivals:
“Daniel [Romanchuk] and Marcel [Hug] are another level, from another universe, at the moment. 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.”
On the packed Abbott World Marathon Majors schedule for wheelchair racers:
“I’d like to have done all of them, but at my age I don’t think I can do all of them in a row. It feels better for me to prepare and peak in October, so I’m happy to do these two [London and Boston] and then I’ve got New York in November, which will be challenging as well.
“But I prefer racing at this time of year, as I’ve got older. It’s dark and cold when you get up in the winter months to prepare for spring marathons.”
On the possibility of BBC losing the rights to showing the London Marathon:
“There are other channels, aren’t there? (smiles) It will be a shame if they do lose the rights because they’ve been there since the start, but I’m sure someone will take that up because it’s a great race and a great opportunity to showcase the best athletes and fun runners and all the people who raise money for charity.
TATYANA McFADDEN (USA)
On her return to London:
“It’s really great to be back, and I’m so thankful they’ve brought me back. I didn’t come last year and I was sad to have missed it. I love the course, I love the competition and it’s just so great to be back competing again. I’ve really missed that.”
On her recent heath battles:
“I’ve had a really tough five-year journey. I got diagnosed with a blood clotting disorder in 2017, and so from April after my last surgery that didn’t work out amid a 20-month period, I just had to heal and get back into the racing chair and slowly start training again.
“So I was quite far behind, compared to all the other elite athletes, and mentally it was really hard because I thought I was going to lose what I love so much. So it was really a testament to my love for this sport that I had the will to get back into training.
“I did an NHK film for Japan where they did a scan of my brain and it showed the ‘will’ part of my brain was one per cent bigger than the average person’s – so I knew I could get back into racing.”
On the Paralympics:
“I was really happy to make the team in Tokyo and win a gold, silver and bronze, and just to be competing in marathons again.
“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.”
On the weather:
“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.
On doing all the Abbott World Marathon Majors, including Chicago and Boston, in the space of 24 hours:
“I’m really looking forward to it. This is the first time we’ll have the marathons back-to-back like this, so let’s do some history here, let’s see what I can do. I’m up for the challenge. Going to Chicago and then getting on the plane the same day will not be easy but, hopefully, I’ll have a lot of help along the way and having a team behind the team is going to be really important for this challenge.
On David Weir:
“What he’s doing is amazing, good for the sport. Having someone like David doing 22 consecutive Londons, it’s good for me as well, knowing you can still do it, still stay in the game. It’s a challenge – I’d like to think I can do 22, or even more too.
On the cost of the sport:
“It’s an issue. Some chairs are $40,000 and some are $25,000. After the pandemic, it’s very difficult to afford something like that. New athletes coming through, they’re thinking, ‘how is that even possible? I’m new, I can’t afford that racing chair.’ My worry is that people are going to turn away from marathons in the future.
“I’ve worked on a private project in North Carolina developing a future model that would be a little bit more affordable, hopefully.”
NIKITA DEN BOER (NED)
On winning in wet weather, as she did last year:
“I don’t like the rain! The sun is better. We did a lot of rain training for Tokyo and I can go really fast in the rain, but it’s better if it’s sun and high temperature.
On the confidence her surprise 2020 win gave her:
“I know now what I can do. I still have to do more marathons to know about tactics and to race with the big girls, but I think it gives me a lot of confidence, and so did the bronze medal I won in Tokyo.
On her schedule:
“I’m going to do New York after London and then I have holidays!”
On technology in the sport:
“I think technology is really important and in the Netherlands, we work a lot with it. If you’re starting in the sport, the chairs are so expensive, and back home you just get a little funding from the city where you live, but that’s not enough.”
DANIEL ROMANCHUK (USA)
On being back in London, trying to regain his title:
“It’s great to be back, just racing with everyone again. I’m really looking forward to the race on Sunday.
On preparing for the Chicago and Boston races on successive days:
“I really don’t know! It really hasn’t happened before. 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.
On the London spectators:
“They’re just incredible here, it’s amazing. Once I’m able to catch my breath, there’s really nothing else like it.”