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Fearnley, McFadden Lead Wheelchair Racers In New York

The windy conditions forced organizers to move the start off the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

The windy conditions forced organizers to move the start off the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

NEW YORK – The blustery winds that buffeted the start of the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon might have been an annoyance to the runners, from the winners to the back-of-the-packers, but for the professional wheelchair racers, those gusts, which sometimes reached over 40 mph, were downright dangerous.

“There were times when my front wheel would come a couple feet off the ground and I’d veer to one side,” said Kurt Fearnley, a four-time winner here. “If that had happened on the [Verrazano] bridge, someone could have gone over the side.”

As a result, organizers moved the pro wheelchair start to the three-mile point in Brooklyn, eliminating the highest point of the course on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

“It was the right call,” said Fearnley. “There are times when the decision has to get taken out of the hands of the athletes, because self-preservation often isn’t our strong suit.”

Fearnley made it “one for the thumb” by outsprinting a pack of six in the final stretch in a finish reminiscent of some Tour de France field sprints. “I saw a little opening on one side and went by, and was able to hang on.”

Even Tatyana McFadden, the most dominant athlete in wheelchair racing and perhaps any sport, wasn’t immune to the hazards of the day, flipping out of her chair near the same point Fearnley launched his winning move. “It was kind of embarrassing, but I got back in and finished.” By taking the shortened race, McFadden completed a double grand slam, winning London, Boston, Chicago and New York two years in a row.

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