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Canadian wheelchair athlete Josh Cassidy, the fastest man ever to complete a marathon anywhere in the world, will be out to dethrone defending champion JohnBoy Smith when the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon gets underway on January 20.
Thirty two year-old Cassidy stormed the 2012 Boston Marathon in a world record time of 1h:18m:25s – a record that still stands to this day – and he joins a strong field in Dubai that includes former champion Rob Smith as well as his namesake JohnBoy, winner of the wheelchair in 2016.
“It’s definitely the strongest line-up of wheelchair athletes in the history of the event,” said Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon Event Director Peter Connerton. “JohnBoy set a new course record last year and will no doubt be the favourite to make it two-in-a-row but with the world record holder also in the field it promises to be a great race.”
Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and held under the aegis of the Dubai Sports Council, the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon will see more than 30,000 athletes compete across four divisions – the Marathon, the 10km Road Race, the 4km Fun Run and the Wheelchair Category.
Last year JohnBoy Smith took the title in a course record 1h:35m:56s from compatriot and Dubai regular Rob Smith in second place in 2:02:17. Third place went to Ali Abdallah Sawalmeh from Jordan in 2:23:00.
“I had heard a lot about the route but this was my first time on such a flat course – it’s a different kind of racing with no respite,” said the champion. “But I can’t fault it and have to give the organisers a score of ten out of ten.”
Unlike Dubai, the Boston course is one of many undulations and Cassidy will find it a different proposition from his world record track. But with three Paralympic Games as well as that extraordinary world record time under his belt, he is sure to attract a great deal of interest when he joins the Smiths, Spain’s Rafa Botello and Irishman Patrick Monahan in a powerful line-up.
Away from the road, Cassidy – like Smith – is a popular motivational speaker with a mantra of “there’s nothing I can’t do!”, while he also filmed a stunt role for the recent DC Comics movie ‘Suicide Squad’, a move that continued to help grow awareness of the capabilities of wheelchair athletes.
“People don’t know how hard we train,” said Cassidy, the fourth fastest 5,000m wheelchair athlete in Paralympic Game history. “That’s what’s frustrating. We have elite guys from around the world in a sport that is arguably more competitive than some of the Olympic sports but it doesn’t get the same coverage.”
But while Cassidy may boast the world record, Smith comes into the race as defending champion armed with a fortitude that makes him one of the best in the sport.
“No part of any course worries me,” he said. “I don’t find any course on earth intimidating. A well-trained athlete shouldn’t have to worry about any part of a course being hard. If there’s a hill, I’ll climb it. Any bend, I will take it. I have no doubts about myself or how I have trained – all bases are covered.”
The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon is supported by the Dubai Sports Council, adidas, Dubai Eye 103.8FM, Sport 360, Masafi, Dubai Holding, Dubai Police and the RTA.