Wheelchair race 'could become regular event'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 February, 2012, 12:00am


Organisers will have to provide better arrangements for wheelchair racers if they are to continue the event next year.

After a break of 14 years, wheelchair competition was reintroduced to the annual event with two categories - a full marathon race which was won by Mazayuki Higuchi of Japan in 1:43:14 on the same course for able runners and a 3km race mainly for local competitors.

Prawat Wahorm of Thailand and another Japanese competitor, Nobukazu Hanaoka, finished second and third respectively in the wheelchair category out of five overseas entries. In the 3km race, Hong Kong's Cheng Yan-keung needed only 15 minutes and 29 seconds to finish the course from Wan Chai Sports Ground to Victoria Park.

'This is only a trial and we will have to consider many factors before we decide to make it [the wheelchair race] a regular event in future,' Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association chairman Kwan Kee said. 'We also need to consult invited overseas runners to see if the course is too difficult and whether the support services are adequate or not.'

The disabled marathon race started between the half-marathon, which started at 5.30am, and the marathon, which started at 6.45am, to avoid clashes among different types of athletes, but Higuchi complained there was congestion approaching the finish and it was dangerous because of their wheelchairs.

Kwan said: 'We know it will be an ideal situation if we can allocate a specific lane for wheelchair runners but because of limited competition time and road space we cannot afford to do this. Anyway, we have to review the situation before coming up with a decision, but we are keen to make it happen again next year, perhaps maybe even as an official event.'

No prize-giving ceremony was held for wheelchair racing as it was not an official event.

Fung Ying-kit, a gold medallist in wheelchair fencing at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games, was pleased with his performance, although he could not beat any of the overseas runners and came sixth, between two other local participants.

'They are very fast and it was difficult for me to catch them,' said Fung, who had only taken part in one wheelchair marathon before, in Osaka.

'I am very happy to have finished the race without being caught by the organisers' bus, and hope my result can encourage more local participants to take part in future.'

Wheelchair runners were disqualified if they had failed to reach one of the five checkpoints within a specific time. Two Hong Kong riders were eliminated in the main race. Of the 31 participants in the 3km race, only two of them could not finish and retired.