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

T11/12

Men

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

 

Women

91        Maria Carman Parades Garcia      ESP          T12               3:00:06

92        Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt           USA         T11               3:06:00

 

T13

81        Tim Prendergast                         NZL          T13               2:48:10

 

Athletes with Limb Impairments

T42/43

Bib      Name                                            Country  Class           PB

111      Richard Whitehead                        GBR         T42               2:42:52

 

T44/46

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

 

Click here to see all the 2013 Virgin London Marathon entry lists.