With a little help from the trolley tracks, Louise Sauvage claimed her first wheelchair victory in five attempts at Monday’s 101st Boston Marathon.
The Australian’s closest competitor, seven-time defending champion Jean Driscoll, flipped her chair on one of the tracks with a little less than 4 miles to go. The delay opened the door for Sauvage who won in 1 hour, 54 minutes, 28 seconds.
Franz Nietlispach of Switzerland waved to the festive crowd in winning the men’s wheelchair title in 1:28:14.
“It’s almost not fair,” Sauvage said of her competitor’s misfortune. “We started off a few of us together. Then at 4 kilometers into the race, Jean and myself made a break and went together for the rest of the race. Jean beat me up the hills, as usual, but I was lucky to catch her after Heartbreak Hill on the downhill.”
That’s when Driscoll took her spill. As she trailed Sauvage at Cleveland Circle, her wheel caught the track and her chair flipped.
“It looked worse than it was,” said Driscoll, 30, of Champaign, Ill., displaying a couple of scrapes on her elbow. “I set up for the tracks every single year, but I’ve never had anybody around me going over that part of the course. This year I had some competition, so I tried to be a little bit more aggressive and I got caught in the track.”
Driscoll tried to fix the tire, which had been ripped off the wheel, but when she had difficulty, she wheeled the final 4 miles on a flat and salvaged second place in 2:01:15.
California’s Candace Cable, runner-up to Driscoll last year, dropped to third in 2:01:40.
Driscoll failed to break the race record for consecutive wins. She tied men’s open runner Clarence DeMar with her seventh straight last year.
Nietlispach, 39, of Rheinfelden, Switzerland, led throughout and was never seriously challenged.
He has competed at Boston six times, claiming his first victory in 1995 with a personal-best 1:25:59. He had placed fourth last year in 1:38:01, but won the Paralympics in 1:29:44.
Second was Philippe Couprie of France in 1:35:09. Eric Neitzel of San Diego was third in 1:35:19.
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