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second place for yamauchi & weir

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Mara Yamauchi


26 April 2009

Mara Yamauchi and David Weir showed Britain have the goods to go against the best in the world -both claiming second place in their respective elite races at today's Flora London Marathon.

In the elite women’s race, Yamauchi brushed aside a world class field producing an impressive career best clocking of 2:23.12. Germany's Irina Mikitenko, 36, got the better of her however and became the first woman since Paula Radcliffe in 2003 to retain her Flora London Marathon title, pulling away from Yamauchi after 20 miles, finishing in 2:22.11.

Yamauchi gave the record home crowds much to cheer about, breaking her 2:25 barrier for the first time. She clung to Mikitenko for as long as she could and was delighted to take "big chunks" from her personal best. European 5000m record holder Liliya Shobukhova produced a debut run to remember, finishing third behind the Briton in 2:24:24.

Oxford born Yamauchi said: "Towards the end I just thought to myself ‘Keep it cool, keep it cool and you'll be OK'," she said. "In the marathon you've just got to dig in and hang on."

The Toyko based athlete added: "It felt like an arena on the way home because all I could hear was ‘Come on Mara'. Now, I'm going to celebrate and have a rest."

Michelle Ross Cope was the second Briton home behind Yamauchi, finishing in 2:36.02, three minutes outside the World Championship marathon B standard of 2:33.

Meanwhile, double Paralympic Gold medallist Weir narrowly missed out on a fourth consecutive title, in the men's elite wheelchair race which came down to a sprint finish won by Australian Kurt Fearnley.

The race was Weir’s first competitive outing since taking gold in the 1500m at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and as predicted it came down to the wire after 26.2 miles.

Weir and South African Ernst Van Dyk broke away early from the leading pack. By seven miles, they were joined by Fearnley and Heinz Frei from Switzerland for what looked like it was going to be a four-man race. In the final six miles, the group dropped Heinz Frei and the trio entered the final 600m with Van Dyk ahead. Weir pushed into the lead after the final bend, but Kurt Fearnley was too strong and came through to claim his first London Marathon victory in just the last few metres.

Fearnley clocked 1:28.56, to break Weir’s course record and Weir finished just one second behind.

Weir said afterwards: "It wasn't too bad a result as I have only been back in my racing chair in the last few months," he said.

"I had a break after Beijing and I have had limited amounts of training. All of these guys are doing marathons every other week. I can only do two in a year. At the end I didn't have a little bit extra to fight for the win."

His next race will be at the BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester on 24 May. 2008 Beijing Paralympian Brian Alldis came a credable 10th in the same race in 1:40:15.

Shelly Woods finished sixth in a high quality women’s elite wheelchair race won by Amanda McGrory, with the top six women only separated by seven seconds. The winning time was 1:50.39, which sealed the first victory in London for Beijing Silver medallist McGrory.

Woods, who made her Paralympic debut in Beijing and took the London Marathon title in 2007, was hoping to be amongst the medals again. She was pleased with her  time of 1:50.46 but will no doubt learn from the experience of another major marathon.

There was also a great performance in the pack of British men as visually-impaired Stephen Marklew (Royal Sutton Coldfield) set a new European record for the T13 class, clocking 2:36.57, knocking nearly a minute off the previous best held by fellow Brit Mark Farnell and dating back to 1987.

Other UK highlights included 13th place for Andi Jones, the first Briton home in the Men’s elite race with a time of 2:15.20 and inside the B standard set for the IAAF World Championships of 2:16. Ben Whitby was next Brit to finish with 16th in 2.18.14. Full results can be found at http://www.london-marathon.co.uk/