IPC World Cup Preview: Whitehead Pioneers A New Era For Marathon Running
Britain's Paralympic sprint champion Richard Whitehead will pioneer a new development in disability sport at the 2013 Virgin London Marathon on Sunday 21 April when the event hosts the first ever IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup, a series of races for marathon athletes with visual or limb impairments.
Whitehead, who won Paralympic gold over 200m at the Olympic Stadium last summer in a world record time, will return to his first love when he takes part in the new partnership initiative between the London Marathon and the International Paralympic Committee aimed to boost marathon running for athletes in classes other than the well-established wheelchair and hand-cycling categories.
After hosting what was widely acclaimed as the greatest Paralympic Games ever last summer, London was chosen by the IPC to launch the inaugural World Marathon Cup, and events for T11-13 and T42-46 competitors were added to a race-day programme that already includes the London Marathon's own T54 wheelchair contests, which have been part of the race schedule since 1985.
London Marathon race director Hugh Brasher explained the thinking: "Over the next five years, in the run-up to the 2017 World Championships in London, we feel we can work with the IPC Athletics to improve standards and help develop the sport of elite marathon running within these classes.
"We believe this is a natural progression from the work we have done within elite wheelchair marathon racing."
There will be four races in 2013 in the following categories - T11/12 (men and women), T13 (men), T42/43 (men), and T44/46 (men).
Whitehead, a T42 athlete, holds the world's fastest time for double amputee athletes over both the marathon and half marathon distances. He set his world marathon best of two hours 42 minutes and 52 seconds at the Chicago Marathon in 2010 but was unable to race over the marathon distance at the 2011 World Championships or at London 2012 because there were no events for his category.
Coached by former British Olympian Liz Yelling, Whitehead will race alone in the T42/43 contest this time but hopes to attract other athletes to compete against in future years.
By contrast, the field for arm amputee athletes is highly competitive with five of the 10 fastest T46 athletes of 2012. Top of the list is Paralympic champion Tito Sena of Brazil, the 46-year-old who won gold in London in a personal best of 2:30:40, just three seconds outside the world record.
He will be racing alongside two other strong Brazilians, Ozivam Bonfim, the world bronze medallist, and Ezequiel da Costa, while his closest challenger could well be Allessandro di Lello of Italy who clocked 2:31:06 in the 2009 New York City Marathon.
Spain's Jose Antonio Castilla will be another threat after ranking fourth fastest in the world in 2012.
For athletes with visual impairments, the T11/12 line-up is particularly strong. It's headed by the 2012 Paralympic silver and bronze medallists, Elkin Alonso Serna Moreno of Colombia and Abderrahim Zhiou of Tunisia, ahead of Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Ildar Pomykalov and his Russian teammate, Igor Khavlin, who was disqualified at London 2012.
There are also two talented Portuguese runners in Gabriel Macchi and Joaquim Machado, who were sixth and eighth at the 2012 Paralympics respectively. Machado, a T11 runner - those with lowest vision who run with guides - was ranked third in the world in his class last year, while the Argentine-born Macchi was fifth in his class.
The two women in this category are closely matched - both Spain's Maria Carmen Paredes Garcia and Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt of USA have personal bests of just over three hours. A former dancer, Mosquera-Schmidt has won the Boston Marathon's race for visually impaired athletes three times.
New Zealander Tim Prendergast is the only runner in the T13 category this year. The London resident, a member of Woodford Green and Essex Ladies club, was Paralympic 800m champion in 2004 and a finalist in the 800m and 1500m at London 2012.
Richard Whitehead will be one of the IPC World Cup competitiors attending a press conference at the Tower Hotel, London, on Friday 19 April. Click here for further details.
IPC World Cup Entries
Athletes with visual impairment
Bib Name Country Class PB
71 Elkin Alonso Serna Moreno COL T12 2:26:39
72 Abderrahim Zhiou TUN T12 2:26:56
74 Ildar Pomykalov RUS T12 2:33:27
75 Manuel Garnica ESP T12 2:36:02
76 Igor Khavlin RUS T11 2:37:59
78 Gabriel Macchi POR T12 2:40:13
80 Joaquim Machado POR T11 2:42:37
82 Csaba Orban HUN T12 2:54:36
83 Hatem Nasrallah TUN T12 2:57:08
84 Gerrard Gosens AUS T11 2:59:18
85 Chentouf El Amin MAR T12 Debut
86 Cristian Valenzuela CHI T11 2:41:04
91 Maria Carman Parades Garcia ESP T12 3:00:06
92 Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt USA T11 3:06:00
81 Tim Prendergast NZL T13 2:48:10
Athletes with Limb Impairments
Bib Name Country Class PB
111 Richard Whitehead GBR T42 2:42:52
121 Tito Sena BRA T46 2:30:40
122 Alessandro di Lello ITA T46 2:31:06
125 Ozivam Bonfim BRA T46 2:33:50
126 Jose Antonio Castilla ESP T46 2:35:15
128 Hamdi Chouchane TUN T46 2:42:16
129 Ezequiel Marcelo da Costa BRA T46 2:47:36
130 Michael Wood CAN T46 2:51:09
131 Johann Lendner GER T46 2:54:53