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Prize money parity 'life-changing' for para athletes

Top wheelchair athletes racing the TCS London Marathon on Sunday have praised the historic decision to offer equal prize money, saying the pay parity is life-changing and a pivotal moment for their sport. 

Race organisers announced in February the TCS London Marathon had become the first marathon in the world to make its prize money for wheelchair and non-disabled athletes the same. 

This means that all four winners of the elite races at the 2024 TCS London Marathon will receive $55,000 (£44,000), with the runner-up earning $30,000 (£24,000) and third place taking home $22,500 (£18,000). 

Defending champion Madison de Rozario said the groundbreaking decision wasn’t just a huge step forward for disability sport, but also sent a powerful message about how people with disabilities are viewed in society. 

“How we value people is so intertwined with how we view their ability to earn and our interest in paying them to do things,” said De Rozario. 

“When we look at an event as big as London, one of the biggest sporting events in the world, choosing to value these two things equally, it is something that hasn’t happened before,” added the reigning Paralympic marathon champion. 

De Rozario, 30, admitted she didn’t think pay parity with non-disabled races would happen in her career, but praised the TCS London Marathon for backing its wheelchair athletes and giving them a platform to continue pushing for positive change. 

David Weir, who will be racing an astonishing 25th consecutive London Marathon on Sunday, said the decision was great for the sport and the next generation. 

“I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime,” said Weir, who finished third at the Boston Marathon on Monday in a time of 1:22:12 and will be looking for his ninth win in London in what is a poignant year for the British sporting great. 

“I think the first year I won it [London Marathon] we got paid by Disability Sport England and it was a couple of thousand pound, I thought it was the best day of my life, to be honest.” 

Eden Rainbow-Cooper, fresh from the biggest win of her career in the women’s wheelchair race at the Boston Marathon, said she felt “incredibly lucky” to benefit from the advocacy work done by top wheelchair athletes such as De Rozario and Weir, as well as Marcel Hug and Manuela Schar – the two Swiss racers also competing in London on Sunday. 

The 22-year-old said: “This is only my third London [Marathon] and to be coming in at a time when [there is] equal prize money, it’s life-changing for me and I know so many other athletes my age are seeing that as well. 

“I think it is just going to push the field further because everyone knows they will be able to make a living and I think it is going to create such a competitive field in the future and I am just really excited to see how that goes.” 

Schär, 39, added: “When I started wheelchair racing, I was about 10 years old, I trained with a generation that had to fight to actually get into races like marathons. To sit here and talk about equal prize money, it’s crazy, it’s unbelievable and I am so lucky to be part of this generation. 

Hug is looking to win a fourth consecutive men’s wheelchair title at the 2024 TCS London Marathon, just six days after setting a course record in Boston (1:15:33). The Silver Bullet remains in imperious form and is on a streak of 11 consecutive marathon wins. 

“It really means a lot to us that we have equal prize money,” said the 38-year-old. “For us it is really a big privilege that we have organisations like the London Marathon that make this decision and I think it is very important and inspiring example for disability sport, but not only in sport but other areas – equality and inclusion is very important.”