This year’s 40th edition Gold Coast Marathon has been boosted by the confirmation of Commonwealth Games gold and silver medallists Madison de Rozario and Eliza Ault-Connell for the Wheelchair Marathon next Sunday 1 July.
The Wheelchair Marathon has attracted a top field of both men and women including last year’s winners Richard Colman and Sara Tait, US Paralympic legend Josh George, another Commonwealth Games medallist in Jake Lappin, and former crack junior para athlete Daniel Henshall making a comeback to the sport.
De Rozario has been one of the great stories of world athletics this year.
The 24-year-old, coached by Australian para sport pioneer Louise Sauvage, won gold in the T54 marathon and T54 1500m at the Commonwealth Games, backed up a week later to win the prestigious London Marathon, and only three weeks ago equalled the T53-T54 1500m world record in a meet in Switzerland.
Ault-Connell has the opportunity to turn the tables on her friend and rival in a marathon after de Rozario was too strong at the Commonwealth Games winning by 13 seconds.
The 36-year-old mother of three has only returned to competitive racing in recent years after first stamping her international credentials at the 2002 Commonwealth Games winning bronze in the wheelchair 800m.
Like de Rozario, Ault-Connell raced and trained in Switzerland in May, setting an Australian record for the T54 800m at the same meet her marathon rival equalled the T54 1500m world record.
If their recent form on the track translates to the road, the race record of 1:43:45 held by Australian Christie Dawes will come under threat.
The women’s wheelchair marathon also features local sportswoman, last year’s winner and Commonwealth Games para triathlete Sara Tait.
The 19-year-old, who lives only a few blocks from the Gold Coast Marathon course in Labrador, has focused on the para triathlon since 2014 and placed sixth in that event at the Commonwealth Games.
The men’s race also has a returning champion in Richard Colman from Victoria.
Last year Colman was victorious in his first attempt at the race in a time of 1:46:15, and this year will be striving to become the sixth man to win a second wheelchair marathon on the Gold Coast.
The 33-year-old Victorian is an accomplished wheelchair athlete on the track having represented Australia at four Paralympic Games with golds in the 800m in 2004 and 2012.
Colman’s main rivals appear to be rising Australian talent Jake Lappin and US wheelchair star Josh George.
Lappin, 25, won a bronze medal in the T54 1500m at the Commonwealth Games and placed sixth in the marathon in 1:37:34.
George is a six-time world champion, four-time Paralympian and has won the London, Chicago, Los Angeles and Twin Cities marathons through his career.
The 34-year-old is planning a relaxed approach to racing in next Sunday’s Gold Coast Marathon after having an interrupted preparation.
Queensland’s Daniel Henshall will continue a comeback to para sport after being one of the most promising juniors in Australia back in the early to mid-2000s.
The 31-year-old still holds multiple Australian underage records in the T52 classification from the period 2000 to 2005 in events from 100m to the 5000m.
Whilst not pushing for victory, Jimboomba’s Jason McGregor will be participating at his 16th Gold Coast Marathon with the past five in the Wheelchair Marathon.
Men - Kurt Fearnley (AUS) - 1:30:18 - 2016
Women - Christie Dawes (AUS) - 1:43:45 - 2016
Men - 5 - Mike Nugent (AUS), Paul Bowes (AUS)
Women - 4 - Kate McDonald (AUS)
Gold Coast Marathon Fastest Performances
Comments from Madison de Rozario:
“I’m looking forward to racing on the Gold Coast course again which holds such good memories for me. The crowd that supported us along the course at the Commonwealth Games was fantastic, they knew all the athletes by name, so hopefully it will be another big crowd next Sunday.
“My London Marathon win was a huge surprise with five of us in a sprint finish to the line. It really capped off a great month which started with the Commonwealth Games.
“Whilst I’m not at 100 percent for a marathon, I haven’t lost any fitness with a good block of racing in Switzerland. I raced 400m to 5000m at three track meets, and actually equalled the world record for 1500m while over there.
“After the Gold Coast Marathon, my targets for the rest of the year will be the Chicago and New York City marathons.”
Comments from Eliza Ault-Connell:
“It’s been incredible to have racing career 2.0. This time around I feel like I am a better athlete. My children and husband are my biggest supporters and the journey we are sharing is a dream come true.
“My preparation for the Gold Coast Marathon has been going well after I had two days off after the Commonwealth Games. I raced track over in Europe a few weeks ago and this showed me that my times and fitness are all on track.
“The Gold Coast Marathon course is beautiful and the supporters along the way make the event incredible. I can’t wait to get up there and race next weekend.
“Madi is in incredible form - she is having a brilliant year and looks to be in top form heading towards 2020 (Paralympic Games).”
Comments from Sara Tait:
“I’m really excited to return this year. I was quite sick after finishing the race last year so I’m hoping I can come back, redeem myself and have a really good race. This course and the atmosphere is amazing so I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’ve battled a few health issues over the past couple of months but I feel quite confident. My goal for this race is to push to what I know I’m capable of and get a personal best.
“Even though we are both pursuing different sports, Madi and I have known each other for a very long time, she is an amazing athlete and I’m very excited to race her.”
Comments from Josh George:
“My preparation for the Gold Coast Marathon has been a bit up and down, however my goal for the race is to have some fun and enjoy the racing environment. Racing can get pretty stressful and this is a chance to let my body enjoy the process of racing rather than focused on a specific result.
“This race is an opportunity for me to compete in the long break between the London Marathon which is the last major marathon I raced and the Chicago Marathon which will be the next major marathon I race after the Gold Coast.
“I have not been in top form however I managed a good result in London finishing fourth and am confident that I can find my form again before the Chicago Marathon in October and New York City Marathon in November.
“Long term, I am planning to make my fifth Paralympic Games race in Tokyo in 2020.”
Comments from Cameron Hart, Events Management Queensland CEO:
“We have attracted an outstanding field in the Wheelchair Marathon as part of the Gold Coast Marathon race weekend.
“It is great to have last year’s winners Richard Colman and Sara Tait back to compete and take on some wonderful competitors – many who excited us during the recent Commonwealth Games.
“Madison de Rozario has become a household name in Australian sport, Eliza Ault-Connell’s comeback to racing is inspirational and Jake Lappin has emerged as a top international marathon competitor.”
The 40th edition Gold Coast Marathon will feature eight races including the Gold Coast Marathon,Wheelchair Marathon, ASICS Half Marathon, Wheelchair 15km, Southern Cross University 10km Run, Gold Coast Airport Fun Run, Garmin 4km Junior Dash and Garmin 2km Junior Dash.
The Gold Coast Marathon is organised by Events Management Queensland, a major event management company wholly owned by the Queensland Government as part of Tourism and Events Queensland.
Visit goldcoastmarathon.com.au for more information.
For further information contact:
Jacob Bush, Marketing Executive, Events Management Queensland
P: (07) 5668 9801, M: 0448 188 927, E: firstname.lastname@example.org