Weir returns for re-match with Hug at London Marathon
David Weir became the London Marathon’s most successful ever champion in 2017. Last year he clinched a record seventh victory and the 38-year-old returns on Sunday 22 April seeking an unprecedented eighth men’s wheelchair title.
Last April, Britain’s six-time Paralympic champion ended a five-year quest for his magnificent seventh when he held off the all-beating Swiss superstar Marcel Hug as a huge pack careered down The Mall. Weir’s one-second victory meant he finally surpassed Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s record 15 years after his first London victory on his 18th race over the course.
The main threat to Weir in 2018 will again come from Hug who has won the London crown twice in recent years and was just one second behind the Briton 12 months ago.
The man they call the ‘Silver Bullet’ has been dominant on the marathon circuit since 2016. He won the Paralympic title in Rio, took the inaugural Abbott World Marathon Majors Wheelchair Series in 2017 and produced the fastest wheelchair marathon in history when he clocked 1:18:04 to win the 2017 Boston Marathon.
He bounced back from his London defeat 12 months ago to clinch victories in Berlin, Chicago and New York last autumn, taking an unassailable lead in this year’s World Marathon Majors standings.
London course record holder Kurt Fearnley is also seeking a third London win after placing third in last year’s race. The Australian won Paralympic titles in 2004 and 2008, set the London course record in 2009 and has been Hug’s most consistent challenger over the last two seasons. He returns to London fresh from his T54 marathon gold medal winning swansong at the Commonwealth Games.
He was runner-up behind the Swiss man in Chicago last October and fourth in Tokyo this February, having won the Tokyo title two years earlier.
South Africa’s 10-time Boston winner Ernst van Dyk will also be in the hunt. He is looking for his first London victory on his 13th appearance. Ever consistent, Van Dyk was second in Boston last year, fourth in New York in November and third in Tokyo this February.
Others likely to challenge for medals include the 2015 world champion, Joshua George, the veteran world record holder, Heinz Frei of Switzerland, and a talented group of Japanese racers including Kota Hokinoue, who was second in Berlin last year, Sho Watanabe, who beat Hug in Tokyo in 2017, and Hiroyuki Yamamoto, who won the Tokyo Marathon this February with a spectacular finish ahead of countryman Tomoki Suzuki.
Britain’s rising star, JohnBoy Smith, could also be a contender. Smith lies fifth in the current Majors standings after placing fifth in Berlin and second in New York last year. A relative newcomer who only took up the sport in 2015, Smith now trains with Weir and is fast becoming his heir apparent.
Smith celebrated a Commonwealth silver medal in this weekend's T54 marathon, with fellow Team England para-athlete, Simon Lawson, taking the bronze.