New elite women’s wheelchair champion makes it a Swiss double at 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon
Manuela Schär set a new course record as she stormed to an emphatic victory in the women’s wheelchair race at the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon.
The 36-year-old made it a superb Swiss double after Marcel Hug was crowned champion in the men’s race. And Schär – who finished in an impressive 1:39:52 – revealed the pain of finishing second last year was a motivating factor in securing her third London Marathon success.
“Coming second last year was a real motivation to come back and do better this year,” said Schär. “It felt great all the way. Being ahead gave me confidence and I love it in London.
“I really felt the cold and rain last year and I wanted to come back and do the usual course. It wasn’t really a tactical race, my only plan was to get away as far as I could and I achieved that and felt very comfortable.”
Schär’s triumph continued her fine season, which has already seen her win the Berlin Marathon, as well as gold in the T54 800m at the Paralympics in Tokyo. But she is not finished yet and remains determined to pick up more titles in the next few weeks:
“I’m doing Boston and then New York next and I hope I can win all four, but the conditions need to be right – preferably dry and warm,” she said. “If this is the case then I feel it’s possible.”
Schär finished almost five minutes ahead of the rest of the field after breaking clear of her rivals around the five-mile mark. German Merle Menje was her nearest contender, with the 17-year-old finishing second in 1:44:51.
Menje saw off four-time winner Tatyana McFadden with a strong sprint finish and is keen to continue racing over the longer distances having competed on just the track in Tokyo:
“I feel amazing to have raced against amazing and inspirational women like Tatyana,” said Menje. “I love long distance and really want to continue this. I love London, the city and the people. This is where I want to be and I enjoyed it thoroughly.”
And Menje’s performance was praised by eight-time Paralympic champion McFadden, who was forced to settle for third: “She’s smart and had a good finish in all the series. She reminded me of my younger self today and I’m really proud of the progress she’s made.”
McFadden was given the same finishing time as Menje and endured a painful afternoon in more ways than one.
“It’s nice to be back but I’d forgotten how much the course hurt,” said the American. “But that was quite a sprint finish. It’s amazing after 889 days since I was last in front of the Palace.
“I feel like the three of us were working really well with each other. Manuela got ahead first and was hitting the turns really well and I lost her there. But since Berlin I’m feeling like myself again.
“I feel relaxed and confident going into my next races and I try not to think of them as a whole. I’m hopeful of a podium finish in all of them and it feel so good to be back here today.”
Rochelle Woods was the first British athlete to finish, crossing the line in 1:50:11.