BEIJING -- The defending champion Australian Kurt Fearnley could have lost his title in men`s Paralympic marathon on Wednesday morning when he and Japan`s Sasahara Hiroki rushed to the finish and crossed the line both in one hour, 23 minutes and 17 seconds.
It was such a close game of men`s marathon T54 (athletes with normal upper limb but partial to normal trunk function) finished in the National Stadium at the Beijing Paralympic Games that Fearnley`s gold medal had to be decided by more precise measurement.
Fearnley set a new Paralympic record of his classification which is even 43 minutes faster than Samuel Kamau Wansiru of Kenya, the marathon gold medallist at the Beijing Olympics.
Following the top two wheelchaired athletes, Ernst van Dyk from South Africa won the bronze at the 42.195-kilometer race started at Tian`anmen Square and followed the same route of the Beijing Olympic marathon which winds across several districts and two universities.
"In the leading pack, there were six Japanese guys. I just told myself, keep holding on into the stadium, keep doing what I`ve done in the past," said the 27-year-old Australian.
As the only event held outside of the stadium known as Bird`s Nest, the Paralympic marathon attracted thousands of Beijing local spectators who watched along the route and brought inspirations to more people, the best interpretation of the concept of Beijing Paralympics: Transcendence, Integration and Equality.
"It was fantastic, the open roads and course design. It`s an incredibly job they have done in the past two weeks. Beijing should be proud that they have held such a great Paralympic Games," Fearnley said.
In the T52 classification (wheelchaired athletes with normal shoulder, elbow and wrist function but no trunk or leg function), Australia`s Thomas Geierspichler set a new world record of the class with 1:40:07 to win the gold medal.
"I didn`t realize I could be the gold medallist. It is a fantastic feeling. You know you can not win gold medal every day. I`ve been dreamed about this moment in my whole life," said Geierspichler.
Mexico`s Mario Santillan had the stadium to himself as he crossed the line in a world record of 2:27:04 in T46 (ambulant athletes with amputations) who was followed by Brazilian Tito Sena who won the silver medal in 2:30:49 and bronze medalist Walter endrizzi from Italy in 2:32:51.
In T12 (athletes with visual impairment), China`s Qi Shun had the crowd on their feet cheering, as he picked up the gold in 2:30:32 to set a new world record of the classification.
In the only classification of women`s Marathon, T54, Swiss Edith Hunkeler broke away from the pack in a congested final lap. The 36-year-old who just won a bronze in 1,500m on Tuesday evening finished in 1:39:59 to set a Paralympic record.
Amanda McGrory of the USA finished in 1:40:00 to secure the silver, ahead of bronze medallist Swiss Sandra Graf in 1:40:01. McGrory had won one gold, one silver and two bronze medals at the Beijing Paralympics.
The reigning world record holder Francesca Porcellato of Italy finished ninth with a result of 1:54:27.