Dubai (UAE): Defending champion Rafa Botello of Spain will face a world-class field of racers including nine-time world champion and double Paralympic gold medalist Marcel Hug of Switzerland when the most talented line-up in the event's history takes to the course for the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on January 26.
Swiss racing legend Marcel Hug will compete for the first time at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on January 26
The Spaniard took victory by just three seconds (1h:31m:19s) from Irish rival Patrick Monahan last year in Dubai and both men return to clash again next week. But they know they also face a monumental battle with the likes of Hug, Japan's Hiroyuki Yamamoto and ten-times Boston Marathon winner Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa also in the world-class line-up.
Add in 2016 Standard Champion Dubai Marathon winner JohnBoy Smith of Great Britain and former Boston Marathon champion Josh Cassidy of Canada and it's clear the wheelchair race will be the biggest in the history of the Dubai event.
"The wheelchair race continues to grow and we are very excited by the field we have assembled this year," said Event Director Peter Connerton. "The route is flat and fast, which really appeals to the competitors so we're looking forward to some impressive racing and fast times."
Although Hug is no stranger to Dubai, this will be his first appearance in the race held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council. The Swiss "Silver Bullet" – a nickname derived from his racing helmet – often trains in the UAE and admits he is looking forward to racing for the first time on the city's streets.
"I come to Dubai every year for training and track competitions and I've heard the Marathon is a good race with a fast course," said the man from Pfyn in Switzerland, who celebrates his 32nd birthday on January 18. "It's tough to predict the result as the weather and any wind will be big factors but I know the course looks fast and I'll focus on winning in the fastest time possible and not think too much on records."
Last year, Hug wrapped up his third consecutive New York Marathon crown to add to a long list of achievements that also includes three wins in Boston and two at both the Berlin and London Marathons. As well as two Paralympic golds from the Rio games, the Swiss star also has nine World Championship gold medals and three European titles to his name.
"It takes a lot of training to succeed, usually six or seven days a week. I'm privileged to be a full-time professional athlete so I can focus on that," added Hug, who sees Van Dyk and Yamamoto as his strongest rivals in Dubai. "I want to be respected as an athlete instead of admired as a person with an impairment. I do sport although I’m in a wheelchair and not because I’m in a wheelchair."
The wheelchair event will be the first race off the line at 5.55am on January 26 to be followed by the Marathon, the 10km Road Race and 4km Fun Run. Runners looking to register can still do so by visiting the official website www.dubaimarathon.org.
In addition to Standard Chartered as title sponsor, the Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Masafi Natural Water, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police and the RTA.