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Van Dyk fourth and motivated after exciting mass finish in London

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By Mark Etheridge

He may have ‘only’ finished fourth in Sunday’s London Marathon but Ernst van Dyk will be buoyant at being part of probably the greatest finish to a major wheelchair marathon in a hugely forceful boost for the code.

In a frenetic showcase of rolling mass action, no fewer than 16 wheelchair racers battled it out in the tricky last stages before the host nation’s 2012 Paralympic gold medallist, David Weir took the line honours.

Winning time was 1hr 31min 06sec with Van Dyk’s fourth place just two seconds slower.

That victory time was some 13min slower than Boston where Marcel Hug and Van Dyk duked it out for first and second spots in a world best 1:18:04 – testimony to the tough nature of the London course.

Van Dyk took time out to reflect on a hectic six days’ action in two nations.

‘After Boston just a few days ago London was always going to be a hard race. There will be no marathon at the IPC World Champs in London in June this year so this race was give IPC World Cup status. Everybody was here and the field was stacked. A few of the top guns did not go to Boston and decided to focus on this one.

‘The race started very fast with Marcel dictating the pace, however this did not last long as the Japanese took over.’

The Far East nation went big in London with six entrants, most of them capable of contending for the podium (in the end they got sixth and ninth spots).

‘Their attacks were relentless,’ says Van Dyk. ‘By midway way when we reached the Tower Bridge there were still 20 in the pack which made finding a rhythm and a good position extremely hard as the course had very bumpy roads this year and with that many in the groups the narrow streets made things very uncomfortable.

‘At around 23 miles Marcel and Dave put in a big surge and made a good gap on the pack which was now down to 16. I was in the back and did not see them go so I moved up to the front and closed the gap on them pretty quickly.’

Van Dyk explains that with two kilometres left to race, it all came down to a frantic battle for positioning. ‘The last 300m has three sharp bends and to be able to content for a podium you have to be up in the front.

‘I wasn’t happy with where I was but there was not much I could do at that point as there was a lot of shoving and pushing going down. When we made the first right turn of the three I was pushed out to the far left and lost a little bit more ground.’

But it’s not in his nature to give up without a fight, his seven Paralympic journeys are testimony to this. ‘With two turns to go I had a lot of ground to make up and moved from around eighth or 10th all the way up to fourth.’

And while it would have been justifiable had he not been satisfied with fourth, he brings home a lot to his Paarl base ahead of the South African winter.

‘I felt slightly heavy during the race coming off the full-out effort in Boston just six days previously. Boston was always the focus for this trip so getting away with a fourth place slightly tired in a stacked field just gives me the motivation I need to work hard through the winter and hopefully delivery something special later this year at either Chicago or New York.’

Until then it’s back to work where Van Dyk will check in for a normal day at the desk on Wednesday morning, the memories of the last week of action probably still very much in evidence in tired muscles all around.


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