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Van Dyk takes third spot in Oita Marathon

By Mark Etheridge

Paralympic handcycling gold medallist Ernst van Dyk picked up yet another podium position when he raced to third place in the 36th Oita Marathon in Japan on Sunday.
Van Dyk, 43, clocked 1hr 26min 05sec for the 42.2 kilometres of racing as the host nation’s athletes, Yamamoto Hiroyuki and Suzuki Tomoki, ended first and second in 1:26:02 and 1:26:03 respectively. Japanese athletes filled eight of the top 10 positions.
Van Dyk’s season has not eased up since the Rio Paralympics and he admits to being rather weary, something not helped by the lengthy trip to the Far East. And it’s not going to get any easier as he now swops east for west in Sunday’s  New York Marathon.
‘I’ve been struggling since Rio as I’m really tired and picked up a few niggles after Chicago, so my training in the last two weeks was not optimal, with the focus on recovery,’ says the Paarl-based athlete.
‘So I was quite surprised to find myself in a lead group of four shortly after the start. But I was going to be in a tough spot as the other three were Japanese and in 36 years this race has only been won by a Japanese once.
‘So, one against three was going to be a long day. The pace was fast and there were a lot of attacks for me to cover. At around 33km one of the guys surged and I had to work hard to close the gap.
‘In the process we generated a small gap on the other two. One of the guys we dropped was my HONDA team member, so I did not want to commit to the lead with my teammate trailing. So I just kept the pace steady.
‘With 3km to go he was able to bridge the gap and then we were three.’
This is when the going got harder for the seven-time Paralympian. ‘I was struggling now as my limited prep was catching up. As we entered the stadium we had to pass some of the half-marathon guys and I lost contact with the two guys. And that’s how it stayed till we crossed the line.’
So now it’s onwards and upwards to New York and one of the toughest wheelchair marathons on the circuit.
Van Dyk’s main injury niggle was to his wrist and it’s taken some time to heal. ‘It was OK today, but I lost 10 days of training to allow it to heal so I’m going to suffer on the climbs in New York.
‘I’ll try and do a bit of hill training on Wednesday and Thursday to see if muscle memory might kick in.’


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