Reprinted from SNS March 2002Thousands of Aussies follow the fortunes of elite wheelchair athletes pursuing sporting excellence at home and abroad. The Arrive Alive Summer Down Under Wheelchair Track and Road Racing Series is the highest-profile wheelchair sporting event in Australia.
On January 26, the grueling 10k through the streets of Sydney marked the beginning of this year's series as well as the city's Australia Day celebrations. More than 40% of competing athletes were from countries other than Australia.
Residents kept their eyes on countrywoman Louise Sauvage, who had won the race in her category eight times. Her main competition was expected to be Japan's Wakako Tsuchida and Canadian champion Chantal Peticlerc. In the Men's division, Greg Smith, Australia's premier road and track athlete, would strive for his first Oz Day 10k victory, going up against 2001 winner Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa.
The women's final times could barely have been closer, but Sauvage added this year's Oz to her victory string, finishing in 27.25. Switzerland?s Edith Hunkeler was clocked with the same time, and Tsuchida was third by a whisker (27.27).
Smith must wait until next year to win the Oz, even though Van Dyk failed to successfully defend his title. Mexico's Saul Mendoza took first in 21.31, Van Dyk was a close second (21.24), and France's Pierre Fairbank finished third (21.36).
In other divisions, Canada's Rick Reelie crossed in 28.35 to take the Open Quads title. Australians Fabian Blattman (37.52) and Grant Buckley (26.20) took the T51 Quads and Junior Men, respectively. Canada's Jessica Matasa won Junior Girls (30.59), and the U.S.A.'s Scott Parson took home the Masters title (21.38).
Contact: New South Wales Wheelchair Sports Association, 02 9809 5260 / www.nswwsa.org.au.