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Dubai (UAE): London 2012 Paralympic Games hopeful Rob Smith will be looking to add another international crown to an impressive list of titles that includes wins in both London and Berlin when he makes his debut in the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon next week.
The current British 5,000m and 10,000m record holder, Smith will fly in to the emirate for the wheelchair category of the event on January 21 hoping for the biggest payday of his career and a timely boost as he sets his sights on the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
“My target for 2011 is to break at least three more British records and to defend my titles at both the London and Berlin Marathons,” said Smith from his home in Leamington Spa in England. “My marathon best is 2h:18m in the T52 Class in Berlin in 2009. I won the same class again in Berlin last year but was slower – 2h:31m – because of rain.
“Due to the flat course in Dubai and the prospect of good weather, I am hopeful of a personal best, providing the heat doesn’t take too much out of me as I will be coming from the cold weather conditions in the UK.”
The flat course and benign conditions should suit Smith who trains 5-6 days a week with often double sessions including push then weights or a gym session and a swim. “I have training sessions with UK Athletics invite-only camps in Leeds and on the track at Warwick University with Great Britain Athletics Coach Peter Erickson,” he added. “I’m working hard and determined to make it to London 2012 where I believe I will be a real prospect.”
Unlike better-known wheelchair athletes such as David Weir and Tanni Grey-Thompson, Smith competes in London and Berlin in the T52 Class, a category for racers with a more severe injury that affects arms and hands as well as lower body. In the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, however, there is only one wheelchair category and Smith will have his eye on the Dh10,000 first prize.
“I currently manage to pay for my racing from my own money with help from my wife who is a primary school teacher and from small donations from friends and family,” said Smith.
“There’s normally not much prize money for these events – I think last year my total prize money winnings were about £700 (Dh4,000) and some vouchers for sport clothing. Winning in Dubai would be my biggest payday – I have a pressing expense to buy a new custom-built track chair and wheels, which totals £4,120 (Dh 23,500), as I need to get some good times to have the chance of being selected for London 2012.”
Smith will join over 12,000 athletes for the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon, whish is held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, and staged under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council.
The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is also supported by The Dubai Sports Council, Dubai Holding, “Official Outfitter” adidas, The Address Dubai Marina, Dubai Eye 103.8 FM, Khaleej Times, TNT, Gatorade, Aquafina, Fitness First, Men’s Fitness, Plan B and by government departments Dubai Police, RTA, Dubai Municipality DHA and the Dubai Ambulance Services.