The Bank of America Chicago Marathon today announced that Paralympic gold medalist and defending champion Tatyana McFadden headlines a star-studded wheelchair athlete field at the 36th annual race on October 13. McFadden is vying for her third Chicago title in a row and fourth in the last five years. Since winning her first marathon at the 2009 race, the 23-year-old Champaign, Ill.-based athlete has rapidly ascended to the highest levels of the sport. A student at the University of Illinois (U of I), she’s the latest in a long line of world-class athletes to emerge from the storied U of I wheelchair racing team.
“Tatyana arrived at the 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon having never competed in a marathon and she won in a thrilling sprint finish. She’s never looked back,” said Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski. “We’re proud of our relationship with the University of Illinois racing team and continually impressed by their performances on what has become their home course. Several athletes, like Tatyana, have gotten their start here and gone on to win all over the world.”
After accumulating bronze and silver medals at the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, McFadden struck gold at the 2012 London Games, winning the 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter races. This summer, she became the first woman to win six gold medals at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, sweeping the 100- through 5,000-meter races. In April, she won the Boston and Virgin London marathons within the same week. With victories at the Chicago and ING New York City marathons this fall, she could become the first racer to win four World Marathon Majors within the same year. For her groundbreaking accomplishments, McFadden was a 2013 ESPY Award finalist, and is a Women’s Sports Foundation’s 2013 Sportswoman of the Year nominee.
“I am very excited to run the Chicago Marathon,” said Tatyana McFadden. “The field coming into this marathon is going to make the race fast and extremely tough. We will have a deep field of elite athletes who are experienced record holders and Paralympic gold medalists. This year’s race will be exciting to watch and I am looking forward to being a part of it again this year.”
Challenging McFadden will be her U of I teammate and fellow three-time Chicago Marathon champion Amanda McGrory of Savoy, Ill., as well as Shirley Reilly of Tucson, Ariz., the 2012 Paralympic Games Marathon gold medalist and 2012 Boston Marathon winner. The Americans will face stiff competition from Australia’s Christie Dawes, runner-up at the 2011 Chicago Marathon and bronze medalist in the 5,000-meters at the London Paralympics; Canada’s Diane Roy, the 2009 runner-up and 2011 third-place Chicago finisher; and Switzerland’s Manuela Schaer, the 2013 IPC World Championships Marathon gold medalist.
The men’s division will feature a showdown of the last three Chicago Marathon champions – Canada’s Josh Cassidy, Australia’s Kurt Fearnley and Switzerland’s Heinz Frei. Defending champion Cassidy owns the world’s fastest marathon time with his 1:18:25 victory at the 2012 Boston Marathon. Fearnley is Chicago’s most decorated male wheelchair champion with four titles, including three in a row from 2007 to 2009. He is also a three-time Paralympic Games gold medalist and past winner of the London and New York City marathons. Frei is the Chicago course record-holder from his 2010 victory in 1:26:56. He was runner-up to Fearnley in 2011 and is a three-time London Marathon champion.
The competition also includes two other former Chicago champions – three-time winner Joshua George and 2002 champion Adam Bleakney, both of the U of I racing team. Bleakney is head coach of U of I’s wheelchair athlete program and was runner-up to Cassidy last year. South Africa’s Ernst Van Dyke returns after a fourth-place showing in 2010. He’s the most decorated athlete in Boston Marathon history with nine victories in a 10-year span from 2001 to 2010.
Logo courtesy Bank of America Chicago Marathon