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Van Dyk bounces back from sickness to bronze

Van Dyk

By Mark Etheridge

He may have been suffering from a debilitating virus… but multiple Paralympian Ernst van Dyk still had plenty of stomach for a fight as he took third in the Tokyo Marathon at the weekend.

Van Dyk clocked 1hr 31min 30sec behind two Japanese wheelchair athletes, Hiroyuki Yamamoto (1:26:24) and Tomoki Suzuki (a second slower).

The seven-time Paralympian travelled east targeting a victory but picked up a stomach bug somewhere between his Dubai stopover and his first day in Japan.

By Friday night the sickness was full swing and he ended up in a local medical clinic.

‘I had a fever and the doctor wasn’t very keen on me doing a marathon, given my temperature and how dehydrated I had become,’ Van Dyk told Team SA. ‘So for most of Saturday I focused on resting and taking in as much fluid as possible.’

Thankfully the fever broke around 3am on the morning of the wheelchair race. ‘I decided “what the heck” I might as well give it a shot as I had prepared very hard.’

‘We started the race and Horoki Nishida from Japan got a slight gap on the group. Before the race my intention had been to hang in the back of the pack and to just survive but the next thing I was chasing down Nishida.’

Van Dyk had serious stomach cramps and says it was very uncomfortable staying in the right position but instinct kicked in.

‘When I caught up to Nishida I looked around and realised there were just four of us and we had put a big gap on a very high quality field.’

The four combatants took turns to increase the lead at the front but Van Dyk was taking strain

‘Eventually I had to drop back and go at a more manageable pace. Yamamoto and Suzuki pulled away and Nishida and myself took turns to try to keep the pack away but they caught us at around 15km.

’Then I stuck to the back but racing in a pack of 15 with all those corners was also quite stressful.’

With two kilometres to race, Van Dyk had perked up and managed to take the lead again. ‘We turned up the sprint slowly and the final kilometre is on cobbles. I knew normally cobbles is a slight advantage to heavier guys like myself and I just drove hard.

‘Kurt Fearnley (2016 winner) and Sho (2017 winner) pulled up next to me but I was able to kick once more and claim third place. All in all I’m quite happy with that.’

Next up will be the NY Half-marathon where Van Dyk will attempt to rewrite history by becoming the first athlete in that race to claim four consecutive wins.

‘After that it’ll be the big two – Boston and London Marathons.’


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