Van Dyk in record Boston Marathon win

20 April 2010

After winning the Boston Marathon for a record ninth time on Monday, South African wheelchair racing star Ernst van Dyk now has more victories in the world-famous marathon, first contested in 1897, than anyone in any racing category.

Previously Ireland’s Jean Driscoll won the women’s wheelchair event eight times, from 1990 to 1996, and again in 2000.

Monday’s victory was one of Van Dyk’s toughest wins yet, with another South African, Krige Schabort, pushing him all the way to the finishing tape.

“It was the hardest ever, to have to fight all the way to the end, instead of finishing at a pace that was comfortable,” Van Dyk told Boston.com afterwards. “It was a battle.”

Good start

Van Dyk started the race well and built up an early lead, but Schabort, a two-time podium finisher in the Olympic wheelchair marathon, wasn’t about to make it easy for him and put the pressure on in ideal conditions.

Van Dyk set a blazing early pace, passing through the 10-kilometre check point in only 17 minutes and 56 seconds. Behind him, however, Schabort had good support from the Japanese pair of Kota Hokinoue and Soejima Masazumi and they worked together to haul in Van Dyk.

By halfway the trio had caught the eight-time champion and passed him, but one doesn’t win a race eight times without being able to handle the challenges laid down by determined opponents.

Heartbreak Hill

At Heartbreak Hill, a key point in the race, just after the 30-kilometre-mark, Van Dyk was still in fourth place. Slowly, though, he began to reel in the men in front of him, but the distance to the finish was rapidly diminishing.

“I caught back up with Kota (Hokinoue),” he told the Boston Herald, “then I could see Krige in front of me and knew that I had a chance.

“I sprinted as hard as I could. Once I caught up to him we knew it would be a sprint to the finish.”

Heading towards the finish down Boylston Street, Van Dyk caught and passed Schabort with 400 metres to go, leaving his fellow South African as the runner-up in the race for a seventh time.

‘I worked very hard’

“I’m 10 years younger than Krige,” Van Dyk told the Boston Herald, “so I have a better sprint than he has. But you still need to time your move correctly. I worked very hard to catch Krige.”

After taking victory in 2008, Van Dyk had said he wanted to contest the race at least one more time so that he could become the sole owner of the record for most wins. A year later, reflecting on his record-setting victory, he told Boston.com: “The fact that it’s number nine is a bonus, but I never thought of starting to count the wins in Boston, I just wanted to do my best every time in the race and be in the money and go for the trophy.

“Whether it’s number nine, number 8 or number 17, it doesn’t matter to me, but now that it is number nine and I’m the only person in the history of this race to win number nine, I think it’s an honor and I need to appreciate what it is.”

Tenth title?

With nine victories to his name, surely the temptation for Van Dyk is to go for double figures. It appears he still has plenty left in the tank.

In 2008, he won the race in his slowest winning time of one hour, 33 minutes and 29 seconds. His winning time on Monday was considerably better: one hour, 26 minutes, and 53 seconds.

Schabort finished four seconds later, which made it by far Van Dyk’s closest win in Boston. Previously the tightest finish in any of his victories had been by a minute and 35 seconds.

Van Dyk holds the world record for the marathon, set on the same course in 2004, of one hour 18 minutes and 27 seconds.

He has won the Boston Marathon every year since 2001, excepting for 2007, when he finished in third place.

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