NINE years ago Carcoar wheelchair racing star Kurt Fearnley displayed his renowned mental and physical toughness when he won the New York Marathon after crashing earlier in the race, but unfortunately he could not repeat those heroics yesterday.
Fearnley lined up as the defending New York champion and after a win in last month’s Chicago Marathon, was the man to beat.
He set the pace early as he chased his sixth overall New York crown – having not only won last year but four times in a row from 2006-09 – but at the mile 12 marker Fearnley crashed.
He labelled it a ‘good dingle’.
Typically, he picked himself up off the ground, changed a flat tyre and continued, but the incident took its toll and he had to settle for fifth place, crossing the finish line in Central Park after one hour, 35 minutes, 21 seconds.
The podium was filled by three of Fearnley’s great rivals, South African Ernst Van Dyk (1:30.54) holding off Josh George (1:30.55) and Marcel Hug (1:34.05) for his second New York win.
Van Dyk was the man who placed second behind Fearnley 12 months ago.
Though it was certainly not the way the CSU graduate had hoped his race would unfold, Fearnley was not disappointed with his effort.
“Very, very large tumble at 12 mile. Chair bent, lost plenty of bark, changed a flat and chased the boys back for fifth place. That’s racing,” he tweeted.
That post was followed by another which showed his trademark humour.
“Martini time. I’m unsure if I should swallow [it] to numb the pain or bath in it to clean the cuts and grazes. Mind made up, drink the first, bath in the sixth.”
With more than 50,000 athletes lining up for yesterday’s race through four New York boroughs, an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation greeted Fearnley and his rivals on the start line.
Fearnley made a good start to the race, setting the pace as he opened up a 17-seconds advantage over the opening three miles.
Three miles later Van Dyk was on his wheel, but Fearnley stayed amongst the top three through the 10km and 15km marks.
But then came the incident which effectively ended his chances of success.
By the 25km mark Fearnley was sitting in 10th, almost four minutes off the pace.
While he was bruised and had multiple grazes from the crash, he literally pushed through the pain as he tried hard to catch those ahead of him.
Over the next 10km he improved two spots and as he reached the 40km mark, Fearnley was back in the top five. But the 90-second gap between himself and Hug was not one he was able to make up before the finish line and he missed out on a podium.
Still, that will no doubt make Fearnley even more determined come next February’s Tokyo Marathon.