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A good day for wheelchair racers

A few weeks ago I remember seeing a house ad in the New York Times promoting their upcoming coverage of the NYC Marathon, held yesterday. What had drawn my attention to the ad was that the photo was of a wheelchair racer. No mention in the ad of "special," of "challenges"
-- no mention of the guy in the photo at all, actually. It was just the marathon photo they chose to use for the ad.

Interesting, I thought. Things are coming along quite a bit. The ad's treating wheelchair racers as regular racers.

Sure enough.

This morning's New York Times coverage of the wheelchair division was, well, a model. Here's the link to After a Bumpy Challenge, a Road Record and Sore Arms Once there, there's a link to more photos.

Here's how reporter Frank Litsky begins the story:

Ernst Van Dyk was born with congenital birth defects or, as he put it, "basically without legs from the knees down."

At 22, Edith Hunkeler was in an auto accident that left her legs paralyzed.

Both took up sports and enjoyed quick success. Yesterday they reached high points in the New York City Marathon.

Van Dyk, a 32-year-old South African, won the men's wheelchair race in 1 hour 31 minutes 11 seconds, a course record. He set the world record of 1:18:27 last year over the Boston Marathon's largely downhill course. He has won in Boston the last five years; this year he raced in five marathons and won them all....

Not an inspirational or overcomer phrase to be found. A good, straightforward interview with the athletes. It's especially interesting to read how Van Dyk answers Litsky's question about whether he thinks the marathon is harder if you're on foot or in a chair:

"That's a really tough question because I've never run a marathon," Van Dyk said. "I think there are different challenges. If you're climbing up a hill and stop, you could go backward. If you're a runner standing still, you'll stay where you are. So we have to overcome that. But we have the advantage in the downhills of resting a bit and recovering, so I think it's pretty much even."

Read the story here.

I was actually disappointed with that article and thought it dealt too much with disability and not enough with sport – compare this article on the 2004 Boston marathon which is purely a sports article (no disability comments at all) .

Although it’s definitely true that the NYC marathon has come a long way with its wheelchair division over the past few years!

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