THE streak is over.
After nearly a decade of dominance, Carcoar wheelchair athlete Kurt Fearnley finally had his run of Oz Day 10k victories ended yesterday at the hands of arch rival David Weir in Sydney.
Weir, the Great Britain superstar who has overtaken Fearnley in the last couple of year’s as the sport’s pre-eminent figure, came from behind late in yesterday’s race to steal a win against the CSU graduate on his favourite course.
Fearnley led the lead pack into the final corner of the circuit at Circular Quay, but couldn’t hold on when Weir found something in reserve in the final 100 metres to steal a satisfying victory.
Fearnley wasn’t far behind, less than a second behind Weir’s winning time of 21 minutes and 30 seconds, while Switzerland’s Marcel Hug claimed third in what was a star-studded field.
Weir, a four-time gold medallist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, had finished second in his two previous Oz Day 10k races and said while he felt for Fearnley, he was relieved to win the iconic Australian Day wheelchair race for the first time.
“I do feel a bit bad for Kurt, but it’s racing. You just want to beat the people in front of you and that is what I did today,” Weir said.
“I’m really chuffed. This is one of the most iconic wheelchair races around the world. I’ve come second here twice and I was really hoping this year would be my year.”
Though visibly disappointed, Fearnley was typically magnanimous when asked to describe the feeling of losing his favourite race on the wheelchair racing calendar for the first time in a decade.
“It is hard to take, but what do you do? You get back up and you have another crack,” Fearnley said.
“That is what Australia Day is about. Being resilient and showing grit is what Australians do best. And when you go through a bit of a rough patch, you just keep fighting.”
Fearnley said he knew Weir was on his rear wheel and in a great position to strike, but felt as though he was strong enough to resist any challenge.
“I knew he had a game plan to hold on to my back wheel, but I was hoping I had done enough for him to have disappeared,” Fearnley said.
“I was just gritting my teeth and hoping that I was hurting him more than I was hurting and that I’d be able to get away. But that just wasn’t the case. It’s a weird feeling”
In the women’s race, Switzerland’s Manuela Schar posted victory in 26 minutes and 17 seconds.
She defeated Australian Paralympian and defending champion Madison de Rozario (26:44) and Great Britain’s Shelley Woods (26:45).